UK finance minister under attack over Greensill row

·2-min read
British finance minister Rishi Sunak says he declined a request by former prime minister David Cameron to provide state help to bankrupt finance company Greensill.

British finance minister Rishi Sunak stood accused Friday of breaking ministerial rules by exploring state help for bankrupt finance company Greensill at the request of former prime minister and company advisor David Cameron, prior to its recent collapse.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak "pushed" officials to explore help for the stricken firm in April 2020 after fellow Conservative Cameron "reached out informally by telephone" to him, the Treasury revealed Thursday.

The collapse last month of British company Greensill has sparked panic and threatened 50,000 jobs, in particular at the sprawling steel empire of Indian-British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta.

Greensill specialised in short-term corporate loans via a complex and opaque business model.

According to the Treasury, Greensill approached officials to gain access to the government's emergency Covid Corporate Finance Facility (CCFF).

Sunak's exchanges with Cameron were revealed following an official request from lawmaker Anneliese Dodds, finance spokeswoman for the main opposition Labour party.

"These messages raise very serious questions about whether the chancellor may have broken the ministerial code," Dodds said.

"They suggest that Greensill Capital got accelerated treatment and access to officials, and that the chancellor 'pushed' officials to consider Greensill's requests.

"The chancellor's decision to open the door to Greensill Capital has put public money at risk."

Dodds called for "a full, transparent and thorough investigation into the chain of events that saw Greensill awarded lucrative contracts... and the right to lend millions of pounds of government-backed Covid loans".

Sunak stressed that Cameron's request was declined.

"I can confirm that David Cameron reached out informally by telephone to me... on the matter of Greensill Capital's access to the CCFF," the finance minister wrote to Dodds.

"The matter was referred to the relevant officials and, following appropriate consultations as outlined in the previous requests, the request was turned down.

"During this process, this was communicated to Greensill Capital by officials and, in parallel, by me to David Cameron."

It comes after Cameron, UK prime minister from 2010 to 2016, was exonerated by Britain's lobbying watchdog over his Greensill links.

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