United Kingdom prime minister Rishi Sunak is facing renewed scrutiny over his government’s ties to Indian IT firm Infosys, owned by his wife Akshata Murthy’s family, after it came to light that he assured the company’s executives that he would “do what he could” to expand the organisation’s UK business.
Trade Minister Dominic Johnson spoke about the UK operations of Infosys at a meeting at the company’s office in Bengaluru. Sunday Mirror obtained the details of the same through freedom of information (FoI) requests.
As reported by the Sunday Mirror, 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 holds a 0.91% stake, once valued at over £500 million, in her father Narayana Murthy’s IT company. In the last financial year, she received dividends amounting to £13 million. This substantial wealth has contributed to Sunak being regarded as potentially the wealthiest prime minister in the history of the United Kingdom.
Labour’s shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth told Sunday Mirror, “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.”
Sunday Mirror reported that Infosys was vying for contracts worth £750m in the UK.
A brief of the meeting held on April 27 last year said, “Despite Brexit and the pandemic, Infosys has not stalled their UK growth plans. It would be good to reassure them on the prospects for the UK economy and remind them of the support we can provide through DBT [Department for Business and Trade].”
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.”
Labour party has alleged that Infosys was given preferential treatment akin to “VIP access”, drawing parallels with the special lane used by companies with connections to Sunak’s Conservative party ministers and government officials who secured lucrative contracts for providing personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recent controversy is part of a string of issues involving Sunak, his wife, and Infosys. Back in 2022, when Sunak held the position of chancellor, Akshata committed to paying UK tax on her foreign income but excluded backdated income. This decision followed a dispute regarding her non-domiciled tax status. Being a non-domiciled UK resident, she is not legally obligated to pay UK taxes on income earned overseas.
There are apprehensions about potential financial benefits for Sunak’s family through a post-Brexit free trade agreement (FTA) he is currently negotiating with India, giving rise to concerns about a conflict of interest. This is particularly notable as Infosys aims to enhance access for its numerous contract workers by advocating for changes to the UK visa regime.
The April 2023 meeting also included discussions on FTA and how it benefits Infosys, Sunday Mirror reported. One of the briefing notes stated, “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 told Sunday Mirror, “The investment minister regularly meets businesses and international investors, including a range of Indian businesses, to champion the UK as an investment destination and secure commitments worth billions of pounds. That engagement drives investment across the UK, creating thousands of high-quality jobs and boosting the UK economy.”