Magnate may be compelled to give evidence as business committee launches inquiry in wake of Greensill Capital collapse
Last modified on Tue 27 Apr 2021 14.40 EDT
The steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta could be summoned in front of MPs after the parliamentary business committee launched a formal inquiry into Liberty Steel following the collapse of its largest lender, Greensill Capital.
The business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee is the fourth parliamentary committee to launch an inquiry linked to Greensill’s failure. It will consider the impact of the lender’s collapse on Liberty Steel, its customers and its roughly 3,000-strong UK workforce, who could be under threat if the company fails to find alternative financing.
Gupta’s sprawling holding company GFG Alliance, which owns Liberty Steel, was one of Greensill’s largest borrowers, owing the firm an estimated £3.6bn, according to reports. The lender’s collapse prompted the Liberty Steel owner to temporarily pause production at UK factories to preserve cash last month, and request a £170m government bailout that was ultimately rebuffed.
While MPs on the BEIS committee are still constructing the witness list, it is understood that the group could compel the billionaire GFG Alliance owner – who is currently in Dubai – as well as the Greensill Capital founder, Lex Greensill, to give evidence.
“The collapse of Greensill Capital and subsequent financing issues affecting the GFG Alliance has put thousands of jobs at Liberty Steel in jeopardy,” said the committee chairman, Darren Jones.
He added that the episode “also raised a catalogue of concerns relating to corporate governance, audit and supply-chain finance.
“As a committee, we will want to examine whether reform is needed in these areas and, additionally, access to and use of taxpayers’ money, including Covid-related support, and whether adequate checks and balances were put in place in return for support from government.”
The British Business Bank has launched its own inquiry into the loans that Greensill Capital extended to GFG Alliance through the government’s second-largest emergency Covid loan scheme, which were 80% backed by the taxpayer.
Reports have claimed that Greensill and GFG exploited a loophole that allowed the group to borrow £400m despite a £50m-per-company cap. GFG Alliance has said it followed the law and that while various entities in the group applied for government-backed loans, only one of its companies was granted £46m under the scheme.
Gupta’s relationship with Greensill has also come under scrutiny amid reports that Greensill was offering loans to GFG Alliance based on speculative invoices that named customers it had never done business with. GFG has said “Greensill selected and approved companies with whom its counter parties could do business in the future” as part of its “prospective receivables programme”.
Greensill is facing criminal complaints by prosecutors in Germany, who say its local bank could not provide evidence of receivables on its balance sheet.
A Liberty Steel spokesperson said: “Liberty Steel will fully support the committee’s inquiry and looks forward to contributing to the committee’s work to secure a sustainable future for the UK steel industry and the skilled jobs, local communities and critical supply chains which depend on it.”
Greensill Capital’s administrators at Grant Thornton declined to comment.
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