By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is probing suspected fraud, fraudulent trading and money laundering at commodities tycoon Sanjeev Gupta’s conglomerate, including links with its major lender, collapsed Greensill Capital, it said on Friday.
The investigation piles pressure on Gupta, who has been scrambling to refinance his web of businesses in steel, aluminium and energy after Greensill filed for insolvency in March.
The anti-graft agency said in a statement it was investigating “the financing and conduct of the business of companies within the Gupta Family Group Alliance (GFG), including its financing arrangements with Greensill Capital UK Ltd.”
GFG, which has 35,000 workers and annual revenues of $20 billion, said it will co-operate fully and would not comment further on the investigation.
The SFO said it had no further comment given it was a live investigation.
Gupta had been lauded as the saviour of steel in Britain as he bought distressed assets in economically-deprived areas. His group has 5,000 workers in Britain, including 3,000 in steel.
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron was grilled in parliament this week for his lobbying efforts on behalf of Greensill.
Liberty Steel said last week it had appointed a committee to restructure and refinance the group and on Friday GFG said it was making progress in the financing efforts.
In its insolvency filing in March, Greensill said that GFG, which was its largest client, said in February it would “collapse into insolvency” if the supply chain finance firm stopped providing it with working capital.
Greensill cited a $5 billion exposure to GFG Alliance when it filed for bankruptcy protection in Australia and Britain in March, a source familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Tuesday it was formally investigating the UK operations of supply chain finance company Greensill as part of global investigations.
Greensill lent money to firms by buying their invoices at a discount, but collapsed in March 2021 after insurers pulled their cover.
(Additional reporting by Eric Onstad and Tom Bergin; editing by David Goodman, Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)