Sir Frederick Barclay's nephew 'caught with bugging device' at Ritz hotel

By Clive Coleman
Legal correspondent, BBC News

media captionSir Frederick Barclay's nephew is allegedly seen handling a bugging device at London's Ritz hotel

CCTV footage allegedly showing Sir Frederick Barclay's nephew handling a bugging device at London's Ritz hotel has been released.

The footage is at the centre of a bitter legal row between the families of the billionaire Barclay twins.

Sir Frederick, 85, and his daughter Amanda are suing three of Sir David Barclay's sons for invasion of privacy.

They claim the surveillance gave the men commercial advantage and they sold the Ritz for half its market value.

The Barclay brothers' businesses include the Telegraph Media Group, the online retailer Very Group, the delivery business Yodel, and - at the time of the bugging - the Ritz hotel in London.

Sir Frederick, the elder twin by 10 minutes, and his daughter Amanda are suing Sir David Barclay's sons - Alistair, Aidan and Howard, Aidan's son Andrew, and Philip Peters, a board director of the Barclay group for invasion of privacy, breach of confidence and data protection laws.

The claim stems from a falling out between the children of the famously private twins.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSir David Barclay and his twin brother Sir Frederick collecting their knighthoods in 2000

Substantial parts of the brothers' empire are now owned by trusts in which their children are beneficiaries. That means Sir David's three sons exercise a controlling interest as compared with Sir Frederick's daughter Amanda.

The CCTV footage allegedly shows Alistair Barclay handling a bugging device at the Ritz hotel on 13 January this year. The recording shows Mr Barclay inserting a plug adaptor, which is claimed to contain a listening device, into a socket.

In court documents lodged by Sir Frederick and Amanda Barclay, it is claimed the bug - which was placed in the hotel's conservatory where Sir Frederick liked to conduct business meetings and smoke cigars - captured more than 1,000 separate conversations amounting to some 94 hours of recordings

image copyrightShutterstock
image captionAmanda Barclay, pictured with dancer Anton du Beke in 2009

The pair claim the recordings amount to "commercial espionage on a vast scale".

Last week the high court declined to order the release of the footage to the media in part because "the material is in the hands of the claimants, and available to them to provide to the media, if they so choose".

The CCTV footage has now been released by Sir Frederick.

In a statement he said: "The decision to release this video of this deliberate and premeditated invasion of my privacy is in the public interest.

"I do not want anyone else to go through the awful experience of having their personal and private conversations listened to by scores of strangers.

"It is surely in everyone's interests for the law to be changed to prevent people outside the authorities using sophisticated spying devices that have such an intrusive impact."

Ritz sale

Sir Frederick's case documents allege that the defendants obtained knowledge of his "conversations with Sidra Capital, which at the time had made an initial offer of some £1.3bn for the acquisition of the Ritz hotel".

image copyrightPA Media
image captionCCTV footage from the Ritz is at the centre of a legal battle between the families of the Barclay brothers

"Despite this, the defendants sold the Ritz hotel to another buyer from Qatar at a price that appears to be half the market price. One is left to speculate why."

The hotel was sold by Sir David's side of the family in March to the Qatari businessman Abdulhadi Mana al-Hajri.

Sir Frederick had threatened legal action if the Ritz was sold for less than £1bn. The once inseparable brothers, who used to live together in a mock gothic castle on the Channel island of Brecqhou, purchased the five star hotel for £75m in 1995.

Shortly after Alistair Barclay, a former racing car driver, was caught on film handling the alleged bugging device, Amanda was removed as a director of the Ritz. On the same day, two of David's other sons, Aidan and Howard were made directors of the Ritz.

image copyrightShutterstock
image captionAidan and Howard Barclay, pictured in 2008

Second bug

It is also claimed a separate Wi-Fi bug was supplied by private investigation firm Quest Global. Its chairman is former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens.

The claimants' documents say that Quest invoiced for 405 hours of listening and transcribing.

The recordings, it is alleged, captured "private, confidential, personal and Sir Frederick's privileged conversations with his lawyers, and with his daughter's trustees, bankers and businesspeople".

The business conversations also touched on details of Sir Frederick's divorce and his granddaughter's special needs, the documents allege.

According to the claimants' documents, the recordings took place "when there were significant ongoing commercial disputes between the parties concerning - among other things - the sale of the Ritz hotel, the financial performance and management of the group, C2 (Amanda Barclay's) continuing financial interests in the group, and C1 (Sir Frederick's) divorce proceedings".

It is said that the defendants were able to "anticipate (Sir Frederick's) every move in advance, plan their business strategy around that… at this crucial time when their business and personal relationships had broken down, and the respective interests of the claimants and the defendants were in conflict".

'Eye-catching claims'

Late last year, Sir David's side of the family tightened its hold on the Barclay empire. His sons Aidan and Howard were appointed as "persons with significant control" of Ellerman Holdings, the holding company for the Barclays' UK interests.

Aidan Barclay is also the chairman of Telegraph Media Group - publishers of the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph.

Ellerman holdings has previously said that it was focused on obtaining best value for its shareholders in relation to the sale of the Ritz.

Sir Frederick is described in the court documents as "a man now left to contemplate his nephews' betrayal and a father who's witnessed the prejudicial treatment of his daughter".

Heather Rogers, the lawyer for the defendants, told the hearing on 6 May that Sir Frederick and Amanda's claims had been put in an "eye-catching and emotive" way.

She said: "This is a dispute about family members and, from the defendants' point of view, it is unfortunate that they are being canvassed in public rather than resolved in the family."

A defence to the action has yet to be filed and a trial will take place at a later date.

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