A decision is now expected in mid-June. This is despite the SFO having written to a number of Barclays executives to tell them that a decision would be made by the end of May.
The May deadline was itself a delay, as the SFO had originally said it would make its decisions on charges known by the end of March this year.
Barclays will not now know the five-year investigation’s outcome until after the general election. Investigators are looking at arrangements between the bank and Qatar Holding – an investment vehicle for the Gulf state – which bought shares in Barclays during the 2008 financial crisis.
The SFO is looking specifically at an “advisory services” arrangement Barclays made with Qatar; which is said to involve £332m payable over five years.
These payments were supposed to be made to the Qatar Investment Authority as part of the deal that would see Qatar help the financially-stricken bank raise the £12 billion it needed in order to avoid being the subject of a state-backed financial rescue package.
So far, the investigation has reportedly involved 44 individuals being questioned by the SFO, including the bank’s former finance director Chris Lucas and chief executive John Varley. Earlier suggestions that a deferred prosecution agreement may be offered have not yet proved to be the case.
The Barclays Qatar fundraising has prompted a number of legal cases. One financier is claiming £721m for fees she says her firm should have received for being involved in the deal. A former Barclays banker is claiming he was unfairly dismissed after the SFO shared a 900-page transcript of interviews relating to the criminal investigation with the bank.
This could be one of the biggest cases when it comes to the arguments over corporate as opposed to individual liability – and a reminder of the importance of compliance.