Fresh trouble for Sunak as Minister accused of giving Infosys 'VIP access': Report
British Trade Minister Dominic Johnson indicated support for Infosys during a trade mission to India in April 2023, raising questions about preferential treatment
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing a fresh conflict of interest row after a Conservative minister on a trade mission to India last April said he would be happy to help IT firm Infosys, owned by his wife's family, grow in the UK.
According to a Daily Mirror investigation, Trade Minister Dominic 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".
The development comes as the Bengaluru-based firm founded by Akshata Murty's father vies for contracts in the UK worth 750 million pounds and plans to increase its workforce in its second-biggest market by 20 per cent to 6,000.
Valued at more than 500 million pounds, much of the enormous wealth accumulated by Sunak and his wife -- who has a 0.91 per cent stake and reaped dividends of 13 million pounds in the last financial year -- comes from this IT firm.
At a meeting at the company's office, details of which were obtained by The Mirror by using Freedom of Information requests, Johnson steered Infosys on how to obtain UK visas for its staff.
Johnson "outlined the mobility schemes available which Infosys could take advantage of, particularly the High Potential Individual visa scheme," which allows holders to stay in the UK for two years.
The April 2023 meeting also discussed how the India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would benefit Infosys.
"Reassure that the FTA will further create new opportunities and investor-friendly policies to support business growth," one of the points mentioned in the briefing notes for Johnson read.
Ahead of Sunak's visit to India for the G20 summit in September last year, trade experts and parliamentarians raised concerns alleging that Infosys would financially benefit from the post-Brexit trade deal.
Infosys, which is one of the biggest investors in Johnson's Somerset Capital, was "reassured" by the minister who said: "We value the relationship with Infosys and will continue to engage at a Ministerial level when requested of us."
Calling the uncovered documents "damning", the opposition Labour said the government had serious questions to answer about giving "VIP access" to a business so personally close to Sunak and Liberal Democrats demanded full transparency.
"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," Liberal Democrat Deputy leader Daisy Cooper told The Mirror.
The Mirror reported that Infosys has received at least 66 million pounds in public contracts since 2015 and more than 46 million pounds worth of these have been awarded since Sunak became Chancellor in 2020.
Infosys has offices in London, Edinburgh and Nottingham and two out of the tech firm's top 10 executives are UK-based.