UK-India trade deal: British PM Sunak faces conflict of interest over wife's shares in Infosys

Sunak will attend the G20 summit in New Delhi in September and will likely discuss the free-trade deal with PM Narendra Modi during separate bilateral talks.

Published: 27th August 2023 04:49 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th August 2023 04:49 PM   |  A+A-

FILE - British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with his wife Akshata Murthy. (Photo | AFP)

By Online Desk

With India and the UK aiming to complete their protracted negotiations for a free-trade deal by this year, Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may face a fresh conflict of interest over the post-Brexit trade agreement. The latest conflict of interest surrounding the British PM once again involves his wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy.

According to a report by The Guardian, British lawmakers and trade experts have flagged concerns over "transparency issues" related to his wife's shares in Infosys worth GBP 481.2 million which account for most of the Sunak family wealth.

In 2023, the Sunday Times rich list estimated that Akshata's shares in Infosys will likely have produced about GBP 54 million in dividends to boost the Sunak family income over the last seven years.

The all-party House of Commons Business and Trade Select Committee has speculated that Infosys could benefit from the free-trade agreement and urged Sunak to be more open about his wife’s financial interests.

Sunak will attend the G20 summit in New Delhi in September and will likely discuss the free-trade deal with PM Narendra Modi during separate bilateral talks.

Darren Jones, the Labour chair of the business and trade select committee, told The Guardian: "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."

Infosys has had contracts with the British government and several companies in the UK. 

In 2019, the tech giant had applied for 2,500 visas for the UK as part of its bid to place its staffers on outsourced IT contracts. The Guardian report noted that Infosys will likely push for improved access to Britain for its contract workers — via modifications to the UK's visa policy.

Notably, India's key demand — as part of the free-trade deal — has been more immigration access for its workers in the IT and AI sectors. Therefore, a trade deal between both nations may financially benefit the IT giant and Akshata owing to her holdings.

Sunak had vowed "integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level" when he came to power, after the short-lived tenure of Liz Truss and the scandal-hit premiership of Boris Johnson.

Earlier this week, Sunak was found in breach of the British Parliament's code of conduct for failing to declare his wife's shares in a childcare firm that would receive additional funding from the government.

Following the reprimand, Sunak has declared the investment in the company on the list of the minister's interests. However, The Guardian report notes that Sunak has not declared his wife's holdings in Infosys on the ministerial interests register. 

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