United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is under renewed scrutiny regarding his government’s connections to Indian IT firm Infosys, which is owned by his wife Akshata Murthy’s family. It recently surfaced that he pledged to “do what he could” to bolster the company’s business in the UK.
Trade Minister Dominic Johnson addressed the UK operations of Infosys during a meeting held at the company’s Bengaluru office. The Sunday Mirror acquired these details through freedom of information (FoI) requests.
Johnson said he was “keen to see a bigger Infosys presence in the UK and would be happy to do what he could to facilitate that”.
Akshata Murthy possesses a 0.91% stake, previously valued at over £500 million, in her father Narayana Murthy’s IT company. In the past financial year, she received dividends totaling £13 million. This significant wealth has led to Sunak being considered potentially the wealthiest prime minister in UK history.
Labour’s shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth told, “After the Tories handed billions in taxpayers’ cash to cronies for duff PPE (personal protective equipment), the public will wonder why an outfit so personally close to Rishi Sunak appears to have been granted this VIP access. There are serious questions to answer.”
Infosys was competing for contracts valued at £750 million in the UK.
A summary of the meeting conducted on April 27 last year highlighted, “Despite Brexit and the pandemic, Infosys remains committed to their UK growth plans. It would be beneficial to reassure them about the prospects for the UK economy and remind them of the support available through DBT.”
The report revealed that Johnson said, “We value the relationship with Infosys and will continue to engage at a Ministerial level when requested of us.”
The Labour Party has alleged that Infosys received preferential treatment akin to “VIP access,” drawing comparisons to the special lane utilized by companies with ties to Sunak’s Conservative party ministers. This parallels government officials securing lucrative contracts for providing personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recent controversy adds to a series of issues involving Sunak, his wife, and Infosys. In 2022, during Sunak’s tenure as chancellor, Akshata committed to paying UK tax on her foreign income but excluded backdated income.
This decision followed a dispute concerning her non-domiciled tax status. As a non-domiciled UK resident, she is not legally obligated to pay UK taxes on income earned overseas.
Apprehensions arise regarding potential financial gains for Sunak’s family through a post-Brexit free trade agreement (FTA) he is currently negotiating with India, raising concerns about a conflict of interest. This is especially noteworthy as Infosys seeks to improve access for its many contract workers by lobbying for changes to the UK visa regime.
The April 2023 meeting reportedly encompassed discussions on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and its advantages for Infosys, as per the Sunday Mirror. One of the briefing notes emphasized, “Reassure that the FTA will further create new opportunities and investor-friendly policies to support business growth.”
Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said, “This Government seems intent on wrecking the public’s trust in politics. The public has a right to know what the Government is up to. We must have full transparency of all government dealings with a firm so closely linked to the Prime Minister.”
A Department for Business and Trade spokesman stated, “The investment minister routinely engages with businesses and international investors, including various Indian businesses, to promote the UK as an investment hub and secure commitments worth billions of pounds. This engagement fosters investment throughout the UK, generating thousands of high-quality jobs and bolstering the UK economy.”
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