Rishi Sunak squirms in tense Sky News interview
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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak faced reporters in the wake of his Spring Statement last week. During one exchange, the Chancellor was pressed on family ties to Russia, and asked whether his family might be benefitting from the Putin regime.
Jayne Secker, from Sky News, asked the Chancellor about the Indian IT company Infosys, which Mr Sunak’s wife has a stake in worth millions of pounds.
She asked Mr Sunak if he was “giving advice to others that you are not following in your own home,” after the Chancellor previously told businesses to “think carefully” about making any investments that would benefit Putin.
Mr Sunak initially batted the question away, saying his wife was not an elected politician.
But Ms Secker pressed him, asking if his family could be “benefitting from Putin’s regime”, to which the Chancellor replied: “I don’t think that is the case. As I said, the operations of all companies are up to them.
“We have put in place significant sanctions and all the companies that we are responsible for are following those – as they rightly should – sending a very strong message to Putin’s aggression.”
Asked whether Infosys – which has operations in the UK and Moscow and reported historic links to a major Russian bank – was sending such a message, Mr Sunak said: “I have absolutely no idea because I have nothing to do with that company.”
But is that true?
Mr Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy, is the daughter of Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy, estimated to be worth around £3.1billion. Mr Murthy is the founder of Infosys.
Infosys has connections to Russia’s Alfa-Bank – Russia’s fourth-largest financial institution, and one of the targets of British sanctions.
In fact, in 2014, Infosys nominated Alfa-Bank for an award in recognition of “some of the world’s most innovative retail banking programs, services and processes” – all of this information is readily available on the Infosys website.
Data available via the Infosys website shows that Ms Murthy holds a stake in the firm – and a large one at that, with 3,89,57,096 shares held.
Shares in Infosys are currently worth $24.55 ($18.61), making her holding worth more than £95million.
Further data – also publicly available on the Infosys website – shows that the company’s share price has actually gone up on the British Stock Exchange since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.
This indicates that Mr Sunak’s family would have reaped some benefits from the company since the invasion began.
This familial interest is not declared by the Chancellor on the official Register of Member’s Financial Interests, or the most recent List of Ministers’ Interests.
The latter does hold one reference to Mr Sunak’s wife – a small UK-based venture capital investment company she owns.
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This is not the first time the Chancellor’s family interests have raised concerns.
In 2020, a Guardian investigation established that Mr Sunak’s wife and her family hold a multimillion-pound portfolio of shareholdings and directorships that are not declared in the official register of ministers’ interests – including Infosys.
Mr Sunak is bound by the ministerial code, which requires him to declare any financial interests that are “relevant” to his responsibilities, and which could conflict with his duty to the public.
Ministers must also declare those interests of their close family, including siblings, parents, spouse and in-laws, which might give rise to a conflict.
Since the Guardian’s investigation, Mr Sunak has still not officially declared any further familial interest.
At the time, the Government ethics watchdog – the Committee on Standards in Public Life – was asked to assess whether Mr Sunak had breached the ministerial code.
Responding to the call for an investigation the watchdog said it was “an advisory body, not a regulator” so it was not “within the remit” of it to investigate individual alleged breaches of the rules relating to the declaration of ministers’ interests.
Express.co.uk has reached out to the Treasury, Ms Murthy and Mr Sunak’s special advisers for comment on this story.
A spokesperson for Infosys told Express.co.uk: “Infosys has a small team of employees based out of Russia, that services some of our global clients, locally.
“We do not have any active business relationships with local Russian enterprises.”
The spokesperson added that the company “supports and advocates for peace between Russia and Ukraine”.
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