David Cameron received about $10 million (£7.2 million) in cash and benefits within two and a half years from the controversial finance firm that paid him to lobby the government, it was claimed last night.
Documents leaked to the BBC suggest that the former prime minister was paid an annual salary of $1 million as a part-time adviser to Greensill Capital, which entered administration this year.
They also show Cameron received a lump sum of $4.5 million for selling shares he had been given in the company. Greensill also paid his tax bill, thought to be about $2 million, on the sale of his stake and a bonus of $700,000 in 2019, the BBC said.
The scale of Cameron’s pay package, revealed by the Panorama programme, will fuel concerns about his lobbying for Greensill and the extent of his knowledge of its financial difficulties. A spokesman said, however, that Cameron did not “receive anything like the figures quoted by Panorama”.
The programme reported that Greensill Capital had lent about £3.6 billion to GFG Alliance — a group of companies controlled by the steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta. Internal documents show that Greensill knew GFG was in financial trouble at the start of last year because it was unable to make payments on Greensill loans.
An email sent by a company finance officer to a senior manager in April last year said that Greensill was using its own cash to cover GFG’s repayments. It said: “We are constantly plugging holes that GFG cannot afford to repay . . . It is not even robbing Peter to pay Paul — it is just recirculation of Greensill funds.”
The timing of the email is significant as it was the same month that Cameron contacted Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, urging him to back a move by Greensill to participate in a government Covid bailout scheme. Cameron has always maintained that he was unaware of the financial difficulties faced by Greensill because of its exposure to companies controlled by Gupta.
He began as an adviser to Greensill in August 2018, just over two years after he resigned as prime minister, and continued working for the company until it went into liquidation in March this year. But at the same time Cameron was engaged in his lobbying campaign that involved 56 separate contacts with government ministers and officials, figures within Greensill were asking whether Gupta’s companies were close to bankruptcy. A second email sent at the start of May suggests that an insolvency practitioner should review Gupta’s businesses. It said: “It may well be that administration is required.”
Although Cameron’s attempt to get Greensill accredited for a Bank of England scheme to support large companies through Covid was unsuccessful, Greensill was approved as a lender under a government scheme to get cash to companies affected by the pandemic. The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan run by the state-owned British Business Bank allowed Greensill to make loans backed by an 80 per cent taxpayer guarantee.
Greensill was supposed to lend a maximum of £50 million to a single borrower or group of companies under the scheme. But it lent GFG Alliance £350 million by making seven taxpayer-backed loans of £50 million to seven of Gupta’s companies. Greensill made an eighth loan of £50 million to another company closely associated with him.
The government guarantee has been suspended while the loans are investigated, but that is being challenged and taxpayers could still lose £320 million.
GFG Alliance and its arrangements with Greensill are also being examined by the Serious Fraud Office. GFG denies all allegations of improper conduct.
Mr Cameron’s spokesman said the former prime minister’s remuneration was a private matter, that he was not involved in lending decisions and had no knowledge of GFG’s financial situation.
He added: “David Cameron did not receive anything like the figures quoted by Panorama. [He] deeply regrets that Greensill went into administration and is desperately sorry for those who have lost their jobs. He acted in good faith at all times, and there was no wrongdoing in any of the actions he took. He had no idea until December 2020 that the company was in danger of failure.”
Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, described his pay as “utterly ludicrous”, adding: “The fact that David Cameron was cleared of any wrongdoing proves that the rules that are supposed to regulate lobbying are completely unfit for purpose.”
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