Britain’s prime minister did not disclose details of his wife’s stakes in a number of companies, according to the government’s updated register of ministerial interests.
In a long-awaited update to the register, Rishi Sunak logged that his wife, Akshata Murty, was a “venture capital investor” with some direct shareholdings as well as owning a venture capital investment company called Catamaran Ventures UK.
But he did not disclose the details of most of the investments held by Murty, the daughter of an Indian billionaire whose fortune runs into the hundreds of millions of pounds.
Instead there was just a single footnote noting the minority shareholding she holds in childcare company Koru Kids, disclosed earlier this month by the prime minister in a letter to the chair of the liaison committee, which scrutinises the government, after questioning by MPs.
The parliamentary standards watchdog is investigating Sunak over allegations he failed to disclose his wife’s interest in Koru, one of six child-minding agencies set to benefit from a pilot scheme of incentive payments announced last month.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, said Sunak had chosen to “preserve the rotten standards regime of his predecessors” and failed to deliver the integrity he promised on taking office last autumn.
“There will be no accountability while the prime minister continues to mark his own homework on ethics,” she said. “Labour has a plan to clean up politics with an independent Ethics and Integrity Commission . . . with stronger rules and tougher enforcement to give the public the transparency and accountability they deserve.”
Asked why Sunak had only declared one of Murty’s business investments — which was already in the public domain — a spokesperson said that the process of deciding which investments merited disclosure was overseen by the prime minister’s ethics adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus.
Magnus and his two predecessors had been aware of the details of Murty’s, and Catamaran’s investments “for a number of years” but had not believed any of them needed to be declared until now, the spokesperson said.
However, Murty’s 0.9 per cent stake in Infosys, the company founded by her father, is not registered despite being worth an estimated £450mn, according to an estimate earlier this month.
“There is a balance in this process to ensure there is a balance between what is in the public interest and ensuring there is . . . privacy of spouses and family members of ministers,” said an aide to the prime minister.
Sunak, who is himself independently wealthy after a career in finance, keeps his own fortune in a “blind management arrangement” overseen independently by financial advisers without his knowledge. “The prime minister does not know what’s in that blind management arrangement,” the aide said.
The arrangement remained in place last summer during the three-month period between Sunak’s resignation as chancellor in July and his appointment as prime minister in October.
The updated ministerial register also revealed that Andrew Griffith, the City minister who played a key role in the rescue of Silicon Valley Bank UK in March, is an investor in a venture capital firm called Firstminute Capital that had deposits at the technology-focused bank.
The size of the minister’s investment is not disclosed. Griffith was among the ministers and officials who worked to ensure the rapid sale of SVB UK to HSBC last month for £1.
The UK tech sector had urged the government to avoid an insolvency process for SVB UK, warning that its failure could damage British innovation. The message was conveyed to Griffith and others in government by tech representatives at the time, including in a video roundtable attended by Firstminute co-founder Brent Hoberman, one of the UK’s best-known tech investors.
Hoberman said Griffith’s investment in Firstminute was small and dismissed any suggestion of a conflict of interest.
“Any interest in this would have been absolutely negligible, even in the incredibly unlikely event that any government in any country would have let depositors lose money,” he said. “In my opinion it is zero conflict of interest and the last thing that would have been going through his mind at the time.”
Hoberman added that he did not think Griffith would have known that Firstminute banked with SVB UK.
Officials said that Griffith declared his interest in Firstminute before the recent SVB crisis.