(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

The UK Treasury will grant the Serious Fraud Office £2m to help it investigate Barclays' fundraising activities during the onset of the financial crisis after it avoided a state bailout and instead received cash from Qatar authorities.

According to the Financial Times, the SFO will be helped by the government to conduct its criminal probe after Qatar Holding, a part of the Qatar Investment Authority, gave the bank a chunk of cash to save it from a publically funded bailout.

After the onset of the credit crisis, Barclays raised £4.5bn (€5.2bn, $6.9bn) in new shares in June 2008 and then a further £7bn in November that year.

However, the SFO investigation centres around the details of the deal Barclays struck with the sovereign wealth fund, in "an agreement for provision of advisory services" by Qatar to Barclays in the Middle East.

Essentially, it is focusing on whether Barclays lent the sovereign wealth fund money to buy its own shares during the height of the financial crisis.

On 15 August 2012, the Director of the SFO confirmed that the office had formally opened an investigation "into certain commercial arrangements between Barclays Bank and Qatar Holdings in 2008."

In February this year, Barclays' Finance Director Chris Lucas retired amid the ongoing investigation.

Under UK law, it is forbidden for a public company to give financial assistance in order to acquire its shares or those of a parent company.

The SFO declined to comment.

Barclays ahad not returned calls for comment by the time of publication.

SFO Needing Cash

The SFO has had its budget slashed to only £30m per year which is only a fraction of what some regional police forces receive. While the SFO is the government criminal investigation unit for financial crime, it has had raft of complex cases to tackle.

This includes insider trading, bribery and a raft of market manipulation cases.

As of November 2012, the SFO was understood to have approximately 40 people within the SFO working on Libor fixing related cases, out of a total headcount of 300. This also equates to 15% of its employees.

It receives an extra £3m from the UK government each year for its investigation in Libor fixing.

The head of the SFO, David Green, has been very vocal on trying to secure extra funding from the government for complex investigations, as making more bankers accountable for major financial wrongdoing has become of the top issues for the public and government.

In November last year, Green told a Parliamentary Select Committee that the SFO should never turn down an investigation because it does not have enough money.

At the beginning of this month, the SFO said it has gathered extensive evidence against of the former UBS and Citi trader Tom Hayes for his role in the manipulation key interbank lending rates after charging him in June.

Furthermore, two former brokers with RP Martin Holdings were charged by the SFO two weeks after Hayes appeared in court with conspiracy to defraud over Libor rates.