Qatar wanted to be the "special" investor behind Barclays' crisis-era fundraising when its prime minister became close with one of the company's bankers after meeting on a yacht in Sardinia, a court has heard.
Ex-Barclays employee Roger Jenkins, once thought to be the best paid banker in Britain, gave evidence at the Old Bailey on Monday for the first time as part of a high-profile fraud case centred on how the 64-year-old and two of his colleagues raised billions from the Gulf state.
Mr Jenkins said he first met Qatar's then prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who also oversaw Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, over dinner on a friend's boat in Sardinia with his wife in July 2007.
"After dinner we spoke about his interest in Sainsbury's and my interest in [supermarket group] Somerfield," Mr Jenkins told the jury.
The quietly-spoken banker, dressed in a dark jumper, told the packed courtroom that his next meeting with Sheikh Hamad was in Cannes, on the French Riviera, when "business topics were again Sainsbury's and Somerfield and supermarkets generally" as well as real estate and banking, which at that stage was starting to show the "cracks" of the 2008 crash.
"We were talking about taking advantage of the falling prices of the shares in banking generally," he said.
Prosecutors from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) have argued that the defendants, who also include ex-Barclays bankers Richard Boath and Tom Kalaris, secretly paid Qatar extra fees to secure an £11bn capital raise during the financial crisis.
Email correspondence from 2008 read out in court showed how Barclays' executives were considering approaching investors in Abu Dhabi and Kuwait but were told not to by Mr Jenkins, who by then had built a "close" relationship with Sheikh Hamad and they "spoke frequently".
"He won't like that, he wants to be [the] special Gulf guy," Mr Jenkins had responded over email.
When asked what that was based on, Mr Jenkins told the court "we were trying to build a relationship between our institutions.''
Mr Jenkins also said that Qatar had kept an eye on RBS's £12bn emergency rights issue that year.
"They will have seen the RBS rights issue with a 42pc discount so would be pushing us as hard as possible to be applying that discount to this transaction and apply an appropriate fee to this transaction," he said.
Mr Jenkins, Mr Kalaris and Mr Boath all deny the charges. The trial continues.