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UK financial watchdog opens probe into 'potentially criminal' Greensill collapse

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Lex Greensill giving evidence to the Commons Treasury Committee on 11 May 11, 2021. Photo: Press Association
Lex Greensill giving evidence to the Commons Treasury Committee on 11 May 11, 2021. Photo: Press Association

The UK's financial regulator said it is formally investigating matters relating to the Greensill Capital collapse, which has sparked arguably one of the biggest political crises in a decade.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), responding to a Treasury Committee's request for information into Greensill's activities, said "as the committee will be aware, a number of allegations have been made in the press regarding the circumstances of Greensill’s failure, some of which are potentially criminal in nature."

"We are also cooperating with counterparts in other UK enforcement and regulatory agencies, as well as authorities in a number of overseas jurisdictions."

But it said "there are some aspects of the FCA’s interactions with Greensill entities that I [FCA CEO Nikhil Rathi] am not able to disclose so as not to prejudice these ongoing investigations."

Greensill was a finance company once worth around $30bn (£26bn) that went bust in March. Its demise has caused much embarrassment for the investors who backed it and the banks that worked with it.

Britain's former prime minister David Cameron and current chancellor Rishi Sunak have both been dragged into probes over ethics and possible impropriety.

WATCH: Every chance David Cameron will be hauled back before MPs to answer more questions

Read more: 'Can I ask a favour?': David Cameron's Greensill lobbying texts revealed

Last month, Mel Stride MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, sent letters to institutions including the FCA, the Bank of England (BOE) and UK Government Investments (UKGI). It has now published their responses.

The BOE said Greensill contacted it and HM Treasury on a number of occasions in the spring of 2020 to discuss potential access to the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

"None of the options proposed by Greensill were consistent with the published terms of the CCFF... The firm was therefore not granted access to the CCFF," it said.

Earlier, the BOE had admitted that Cameron lobbied it on behalf of Greensill.

Meanwhile, HM Treasury said it will continue to cooperate with parliament and all official inquiries into this matter, including the investigation by the National Audit Office into Greensill’s involvement in the government’s COVID-19 support schemes.

And UKGI said none of its officials had any contact with any government departments "in respect of this matter. No UKGI officials had any contact with Greensill (or their representatives) vis-à-vis the CLBILS [Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme]."

Read more: How Greensill's collapse rocked Westminster

Later on Tuesday, the committee will take evidence from Greensill founder Lex Greensill in the second evidence session of its inquiry. 

The committee said it is likely to examine the reasons for Greensill’s failure, how it was managing risks before the failure, its business model and funding, and its characterisation as a fintech business.

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