September 29, 2023 3:37 PM

Rishi Sunak Faces Fresh Conflict of Interest Row Over India-UK Trade Deal

Last Updated: August 27, 2023, 10:53 IST

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty outside 10 Downing Street. (AFP File Photo)

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty outside 10 Downing Street. (AFP File Photo)

Rishi Sunak faces conflict of interest concerns over his wife’s shareholding in Infosys amid UK-India trade negotiations before G20 summit

In the lead-up to the G20 Summit in India next month, Rishi Sunak finds himself embroiled in a potential conflict of interest controversy. Worries have surfaced regarding allegations that his family could stand to gain financially from a post-Brexit trade agreement currently in the works with India.

British newspaper The Observer reported that UK parliamentarians and trade experts are raising “transparency” issues related to the stakeholding of Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty in Bengaluru-based IT giant Infosys, co-founded by his father-in-law father Narayana Murthy.

Some Labour lawmakers are urging Sunak to disclose more about his wife’s financial interests due to Infosys potentially benefiting from the deal. Besides this, suggestions have been made that Sunak should recuse himself from the trade negotiations.

“As the prime minister recently learned, it’s important he declares any interests properly. I expect him to do so in respect of the India trade deal too,” Darren Jones, the Labour chair of the business and trade select committee, was quoted as saying by the newspaper. This report comes as the India-origin UK prime minister is scheduled to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi, where he is expected to discuss the trade negotiations between the two countries. British Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has recently held intense discussions on the prospective deal after returning from India.

According to The Observer, Infosys aims to enhance access for its contract workers to the UK through changes in the visa regime. This aligns with India’s demand for more visas in sectors like IT and artificial intelligence, while the UK is seeking tariff reductions on exports to India including Scotch whisky and cars.

As sensitivities over the trade negotiations have emerged, the UK Foreign Office reportedly advised against a committee trip to India this autumn to examine potential deal issues. Moreover, the UK foreign office has indicated it cannot assist in arranging meetings with Indian officials and businesspeople.

The majority of Akshata and Sunak’s wealth is tied to Infosys, valued at around 50 billion pounds. The company was co-founded by Akshata’s father, Narayana Murthy, in 1981. Last year, a list published by a prominent UK newspaper estimated the holding of the couple generated 54 million in dividends over seven years.

This latest conflict of interest row follows Sunak’s recent criticism by the UK parliamentary watchdog for not properly declaring his wife’s shareholding in a childcare firm benefiting from government policy changes.

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