White Oak Ends Talks with GFG Alliance as SFO Launched Probe
The Daily Mail reported that British Government’s Serious Fraud Office is scrutinising suspected fraud, fraudulent trading and money laundering at companies in the GFG group, including its financing arrangements with Greensill Capital UK. The exact scope of the SFO investigation isn’t yet clear and SFO has not said which GFG entities it is investigating. SFO, which often takes years to publicly confirm it’s taking action against a company, will now start to gather evidence, including securing devices and documents. However, it’ll likely take years for the office to make any tangible updates to the investigation, including whether it decides to charge individuals as part of the probe. SFO said “The SFO is investigating suspected fraud, fraudulent trading and money laundering in relation to the financing and conduct of the business of companies within the Gupta Family Group Alliance, including its financing arrangements with Greensill Capital UK Ltd. As this is a live investigation, the SFO can provide no further comment.”
The SFO probe is likely to make it difficult for Mr Sanjeev Gupta to strike deals with any potential backers. The immediate fall out seems to be San Francisco based White Oak Global Advisors ending all talks over GBP 200 million lifeline. A spokesman said “As with any regulated financial institution, we are not in a position to continue discussions with any company that is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for money laundering.”
The report quoted a spokesman for GFG as saying “It will cooperate fully with the investigation. As these matters are the subject of an SFO investigation we cannot make any further comment. GFG Alliance continues to serve its customers around the world and is making progress in the refinancing of its operations which are benefiting from the operational improvements it has made and the very strong steel, aluminium and iron ore markets.”
A spokesman for the Community steel union said “This is a concerning development and we await the findings of the investigation. However, this must not detract from the complete focus of all parties on securing our members' jobs and protecting these crucial strategic businesses.”
Australian Workers' Union SA branch secretary Mr Peter Lamps the union is quite disappointed in the news emanating from the United Kingdom. Mr Lamps said "We've continuously said throughout this whole process that resolution of it would take a number of weeks, if not months, rather than a number of days. Whilst disappointing, our members have known for some time that this is a long process, and they continue, as they've done throughout this whole process, to make steel."
The Serious Fraud Office investigation into GFG Alliance will also raise more questions about the accounting firm that signed off the books of dozens of the group's companies. Relatively unknown in the UK accounting world, led by chartered accountant Mr Milan Patel King & King audited around 60 of Gupta's firms in the UK. King & King has two small offices in London. Its audits were crucial to collapsed financing house Greensill lending money to GFG companies. King & King has few other big-name clients, but has handled accounting for a UK entity controlled by Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty, the Indian founder of Middle East hospital operator NMC Health and finance group Finablr, which previously owned Travelex. NMC and Finablr have both been accused of fraud.