MPs on the parliamentary business committee have written to steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta criticising his “deeply discourteous” decision not to appear before an enquiry into embattled Liberty Steel.
They also questioned the “unusual extent to which you personally control the finances of Liberty Steel
and its associated companies”.
Gupta is the chief executive and chairman of the GFG Alliance, a conglomerate of firms including the steel company.
His firm’s business practices have been under heavy scrutiny since the collapse of boutique bank Greensill Capital in March, which has left Gupta scrambling to refinance his business.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has also launched a probe into the firm for “suspected fraud, fraudulent trading and money laundering”.
Gupta had been due to appear in front of MPs last month, but sent Liberty Steel’s finance director instead.
In his letter, committee chair Darren Jones laid out a number of new questions for Gupta to answer.
“In oral evidence you would have had the opportunity to clarify concerns about corporate governance, lending practices, and use of taxpayer-backed funding within GFG Alliance.
“The public will infer what they will from your refusal to appear”, he added.
In a letter of 1 July, sent in lieu of not appearing at the inquiry, Gupta said “should the Committee wish to ask follow up questions in response to our submissions, I would be happy to receive those in writing and I will respond as fully we are able.”
The letter comes after a National Audit Office (NAO) report confirmed that GFG Alliance had received £400m in government Covid-19 support, including £250m from Greensill.
That is despite the fact that a single company is only meant to be able to get £50m from the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).
NAO’s report also showed that officials at BEIS had shown “unusual interest” in getting Greensill approved as a lender on the scheme.
“Given the broader importance of these issues, as well as their centrality to our inquiry, you will appreciate the need for detailed and comprehensive answers.
“I expect your written submission to answer each individual question in turn and will not accept attempts to avoid questions by providing sweeping general answers in a format to your liking”, Jones added.
“Please note my Committee also reserves the right to call you to give evidence at a future point.”