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Questions over loans to steel giant as former prime minister breaks silence

© PALiberty Steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta
Liberty Steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta

A metals magnate who owns Scotland’s last surviving steelworks and aluminium smelter is facing new questions over his finances after fresh claims about suspect invoices.

Sanjeev Gupta’s company Liberty Commodities obtained funds from Greensill Capital after providing invoices for products sold to four European companies. But, according to the Financial Times, the companies all deny doing business with Gupta’s group. Gupta’s GFG Alliance, a con­glomerate of his metals businesses, was one of the biggest customers of Greensill until its collapse last month, which has put thousands of British jobs at risk.

One of the companies, KME Germany, said: “We did not trade with them in the past, not trading now, we will not trade with them.”

GFG said: “Many of Greensill’s financing arrangements with its clients, including with some of the companies in the GFG Alliance, were prospective receivables programmes, sometimes described as future receivables.”

Meanwhile, former prime minister David Cameron is continuing to face questions over his efforts to secure government access for Greensill. After leaving Downing Street, Cameron went to work as an adviser for Greensill and lobbied ministers for support through the government’s corporate Covid finance scheme.

According to sources closes to him, he has admitted it was a mistake to lobby Chancellor Rishi Sunak with private text messages over access.

The chancellor admitted he had “pushed” officials to consider plans that could have helped Greensill, which Cameron had shares in that were worth millions of pounds.

© Hannah McKay/PA Wire
David Cameron

GFG Alliance’s £330 million ­purchase of an aluminium smelter in Fort William was aided by a 25-year Scottish Government guarantee worth up to £575m. The Scottish government, through Scottish Enterprise, also loaned Gupta £7m to acquire two steel mills in Lanarkshire.

Scottish Labour called on the Scottish Government to publish all its communications with GFG Alliance.

Labour former shadow Scotland minister Paul Sweeney said: “This is beginning to look like one of the biggest financial scandals since the Enron fiasco. Serious questions remain and all communications between the Scottish government, its ministers and agencies, and Gupta’s murky GFG Alliance group of ­companies must be fully disclosed as a matter of urgency.”

The Scottish Government said: “Scottish ministers worked with the unions and other stakeholders in 2016 to save the Lanarkshire steelworks. Job numbers at the site have recovered to around 140 now.

“The financial guarantee in support of Lochaber Smelter continues to safeguard jobs and bolster the wider Lochaber economy.”