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Investigations by the Serious Fraud Office into Sanjeev Gupta’s business empire have stepped up a gear after his offices were visited by officials.
It comes almost a year after a probe was first launched into his firm, GFG Alliance, which included its links to collapsed lender Greensill.
Here, the PA agency looks at how we got here and who are the key players involved.
– Who is Sanjeev Gupta?
Mr Gupta was born in India as the son of a wealthy businessman. Educated in England, he was thrown out of his Cambridge halls for setting up a company from the accommodation.
He built his name trading commodities around the world, but nearly a decade ago he entered the British steel industry for the first time.
Since then he has snapped up many struggling steel businesses in the UK and around the world, earning him his “saviour of steel” nickname in the British press.
– What is GFG Alliance?
GFG is a loose collection of industrial companies linked to Mr Gupta and his father, Parduman K Gupta.
Covering companies from renewable power to commodity trading and steelworks, GFG employs around 35,000 people across 30 countries, including thousands at Liberty Steel.
It has never published consolidated accounts.
– Why is the Serious Fraud Office involved?
Last May, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) opened its probe into suspected fraud and money laundering by GFG Alliance.
It came after the group’s main financial backer, Greensill Capital, collapsed earlier that year, prompting intense scrutiny by the authorities.
The SFO is among a number of organisations to launch probes into GFG’s activities, including French police, which raided the firm’s Paris offices on Tuesday.
– Why did it visit the firm’s offices?
The SFO visited the company’s office across England, Wales and Scotland on Wednesday morning as they escalated their enquiries.
Today, the SFO stepped up its investigation into Sanjeev Gupta's businesses.
Teams of SFO investigators across the UK issued Section 2 notices and spoke with executives at addresses linked with Gupta’s GFG Alliance, also known as the Liberty House Group of companies.
— Serious Fraud Office (SFO) (@UKSFO) April 27, 2022
It confirmed that it visited these sites to request documents including company balance sheets, annual reports and correspondence related to the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the SFO said: “Investigators spoke with executives at multiple addresses, who co-operated with the operation.”
– How is Greensill involved?
GFG used so-called supply chain finance services offered by Greensill, prior to the lender’s collapse.
This meant that if GFG sold a product to a different company, it could send the invoice to Greensill and be paid right away, rather than having to wait potentially months for the customer to pay its bills.
Bringing in money this way can be useful for companies with tight cash flows.
However, how Greensill and GFG did business together is being investigated by the fraud investigators.
– How did Greensill collapse?
Greensill’s collapse was the culmination of a long process, but the final nail in the coffin was when its main insurer walked away.
Greensill had supplied loans to many customers. These were then lumped together and sold off, via a Credit Suisse fund, to outside investors, who would buy a share in the loans and cash in when they were paid back. These loans were insured.
But insurer Tokio Marine decided not to renew the insurance following concerns that one of its employees might have acted beyond his authority.
Founder Lex Greensill later told MPs this event “ensured Greensill’s collapse”.