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Barclays denies making "illegal payment" for Saudi license

Signage for Barclays bank in London February 14, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
Signage for Barclays bank in London February 14, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

DUBAI/JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Barclays did not make any "illegal payment" to win a banking license in Saudi Arabia, the bank said in a statement in response to a newspaper report last week that said U.S. authorities were looking at whether improper payments were made.

The Financial Times had reported on November 10 that the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) was investigating whether Barclays made any improper payments to win a banking license in Saudi Arabia to operate a wealth-management arm and investment bank, citing people familiar with the investigation.

"The board of directors of Barclays Saudi Arabia and its executive management takes the issue raised by the media very seriously," the bank said on Saturday.

"Barclays Saudi Arabia confirms that it did not make any illegal payment to the CMA (Capital Markets Authority) or any of its officials regarding the granting of Saudi license."

"Barclays SA will continue to conduct business in the kingdom in accordance with the highest professional standards and is fully committed to the development of Saudi Arabia's financial market," the bank said.

Barclays was licensed to start business in Saudi Arabia in August 2009 and given final approval to begin securities trading in May 2010 after the Saudi regulator said the bank had met all requirements.

The CMA said last week that it was not aware of any investigations and had not received any inquiries from regulatory bodies on the issue.

Barclays is facing a series of investigations into its business, including one by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Financial Services Authority which are scrutinizing payments made by Barclays to Qatar as part of a 2008 fundraising.

The bank has come under scrutiny regarding manipulation of benchmark interest rate Libor and could face fines over an investigation into the manipulation of power prices the United States.

Barclays Saudi Arabia is a closed joint stock company regulated by the CMA.

(Reporting by Dinesh Nair and Asma Alsharif. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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