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UK launches inquiry into lobbying scandal involving ex-PM

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 20, 2016 British Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to the media outside 10 Downing Street in London on February 20 , 2016 regarding the EU negotiations and to announce the date of the in-out EU referendum after chairing a meeting of the cabinet. – Pressure mounted on Britain’s former premier David Cameron on April 12, 2021 as the government announced an inquiry into lobbying of ministers prior to the collapse of finance firm Greensill. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

Pressure mounted on Britain’s former premier David Cameron on Monday as the government announced an inquiry into lobbying of ministers prior to the collapse of finance firm Greensill.

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A day after Cameron finally broke his silence on the scandal, Downing Street said the inquiry would be led by senior lawyer Nigel Boardman and report back soon.

“We recognise the public interest here and that’s why the prime minister has commissioned this independent review,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

The inquiry “will look at how contracts were secured and how business representatives engaged with the government”, he said, confirming it would examine Greensill’s role in the use of supply chain finance by the government.

“You can expect a prompt return on this.”

The collapse last month of British company Greensill threatened 50,000 jobs, in particular at the sprawling steel empire of Indian-British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta.

Greensill specialised in short-term corporate loans via a complex and opaque business model.

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Cameron became a paid advisor to Greensill after leaving government in 2016 and held share options potentially worth millions that are now worthless.

He personally lobbied finance minister Rishi Sunak and others in a vain effort to persuade the government to let Greensill gain access to an emergency financing facility set up to help businesses weather the Covid pandemic.

In a lengthy statement Sunday, Cameron acknowledged that he should have gone through formal channels, but stressed that he had not broken any lobbying rules.

Sunak has been forced to defend himself against suggestions he broke ministerial rules by exploring state help for the stricken company, whose founder Lex Greensill enjoyed privileged access to Downing Street when Cameron was prime minister.

Opposition parties had been pushing for the inquiry, after previously denouncing the government’s awarding of bid-free contracts to favoured companies last year when the coronavirus pandemic took grip.

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