MPs slam Sanjeev Gupta for failing to answer Liberty Steel’s questions
The chairman of the influential MPs committee wrote to steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta accusing him of being “deeply discourteous” for his refusal to appear before them.
Darren Jones, who chairs the committee studying Liberty Steel and the future of Britain’s steel industry, said the businessman needs to explain how his empire is run, sending him a list of 36 questions.
The mogul had been invited to appear before MPs but refused – agreeing only to send written evidence to the committee.
Mr Jones wrote: “The public will deduce what they want from your refusal to appear.”
“Given the broader importance of these questions, as well as their importance to our investigation, you will appreciate the need for detailed and comprehensive answers.
“I expect your written submission to respond to each individual question in turn and will not accept attempts to avoid the questions by providing quick general responses in a format to your liking.”
As part of their inquiries, MPs are examining the collapse of Greensill Capital, which had approximately US $ 5 billion (£ 3.6 billion) exposure to Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance after granting many loans.
GFG is unusual in that the companies are linked in their ownership by Mr. Gupta and his family, but they are not formally part of a group.
In total, the GFG companies – which include Liberty Steel – have received £ 350million on seven Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) loans backed by the Greensill government.
Greensill attempted to secure a loan from the Bank of England through a separate scheme, with former Prime Minister David Cameron lobbying Treasury officials and ministers. He denies any wrongdoing.
GFG’s structure has been criticized by MPs for being too opaque and Mr Jones asked Mr Gupta to explain why he opted for such a set-up.
The questions to the businessman relate to issues such as allegations that GFG used bogus invoices and so-called circular financing.
MPs also want to know how the government loans have been spent by Liberty Steel and whether additional funds have been received beyond that provided by Greensill Capital.
Mr Gupta is also asked to explain whether the GFG Alliance companies have been split into separate legal entities in order to bypass the £ 50million loan limits on CLBILS loan guarantees.
And MPs want to know whether Mr. Gupta has personally pressured current or former ministers or officials in the government.
Other questions relate to Liberty Steel’s current financial condition, its relationship with Wyelands Bank – which is also part of the GFG Alliance – and audit processes.
Mr Jones said: “In the evidence we have heard so far in our investigation, a story has emerged of the unusual extent to which Sanjeev Gupta personally controls the finances of Liberty Steel and its associated companies.
“Liberty Steel companies have received hundreds of millions in taxpayer guaranteed loans and the GFG Alliance has received millions more in government guaranteed funding.
“Given the taxpayer’s considerable exposure to GFG Alliance, it is fair that Parliament and the public expect Mr. Gupta to come out from behind his lawyers and offer meaningful answers to key questions relating to Liberty Steel and at GFG Alliance. “
Several other investigations are underway on GFG Alliance and Greensill Capital alongside that of the Business Committee.
These include inquiries by the Special Treasury Commission, the Public Accounts Commission and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Commission.
The Serious Fraud Office has opened an investigation into GFG and its funding arrangements with Greensill.
The National Audit Office is investigating Greensill’s involvement in a government-backed pandemic loan program, which is also being reviewed by the British Business Bank.
Lawyer Nigel Boardman is investigating the government’s use of supply chain finance, the Cabinet Office reviewing lobbying law, and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) investigating “potentially criminal” allegations regarding the Greensill failure.
The accounting oversight body, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), is also investigating auditors at Greensill and Wyelands Bank.