Australia GFG Alliance fraud investigation raises further questions over Whyalla steelworks' future

12:55  15 may  2021
12:55  15 may  2021 Source:   msn.com

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SFO launches investigation into Gupta Family Group Alliance . The UK’s Serious Fraud Office has announced it is investigating Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance and its financing arrangements with Greensill Capital. GFG Alliance owns Liberty Steel , which employs 3,000 steel workers in the UK. Fresh questions have been raised over Amazon’s tax planning after its latest corporate filings in Luxembourg revealed that the company collected record sales income of €44bn (£38bn) in Europe last year but did not have to pay any corporation tax to the Grand Duchy.

The Whyalla steelworks , along with a coalmine in New South Wales, had been under threat because of the global collapse of Greensill Capital, founded by Australian businessman Lex Greensill. A day before creditors were due to start a legal bid to wind up the two operations, Mr Gupta's company GFG Alliance announced it had reached an agreement to refinance its debts to Greensill Capital. "The new financing is sufficient to pay out its Greensill debt in full and to provide ongoing working capital for the LPMA group, which includes the integrated mining and primary steel business at Whyalla and its

a man wearing a hat: Sanjeev Gupta (right) bought the Whyalla steelworks in 2017 for an estimated $700 million. (Supplied: GFG Alliance) © Provided by ABC Business Sanjeev Gupta (right) bought the Whyalla steelworks in 2017 for an estimated $700 million. (Supplied: GFG Alliance)

A United Kingdom fraud agency probe into the owner of Whyalla steelworks has once again thrown the future of the regional South Australian operation into question.

The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) yesterday announced it was investigating the steelworks' owner Sanjeev Gupta's company, Gupta Family Group (GFG) Alliance.

The SFO said it will look into suspected fraudulent trading and money laundering, including financial arrangements with GFG's major lender Greensill Capital, which collapsed last month.

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The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has announced it is investigating SA Whyalla Steelworks owner Sanjeev Gupta’s company, Gupta Family Group ( GFG ) Alliance . Key points: The GFG Alliance is being investigated over suspected fraud and money laundering. Greensill Capital, owned by Australian businessman Lex Greensill, was a major lender to Mr Gupta’s business and collapsed last month. Former British PM David Cameron has been investigated over his lobbying for Greensill.

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A GFG Alliance spokesperson said the company would "cooperate fully with the investigation".

The investigation comes at the same time as GFG tries to refinance for the Whyalla steelworks and Tahmoor coal mine in New South Wales, following Greensill's collapse.

Local MP Eddie Hughes said the latest development "just adds to the uncertainty in Whyalla" and the 2,000 workers at the steelworks.

"It's the only integrated steelworks in the nation that produces structural steel and rail, so it is an integral part of our sovereign manufacturing capacity," Mr Hughes said.

Investigation 'disappointing' for workers

Australian Workers' Union SA branch secretary Peter Lamps the union was "quite disappointed in the news overnight emanating from the United Kingdom".

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Sanjeev Gupta took over the steelworks in 2017. (ABC News: Nick Harmsen. ) But Whyalla Chamber of Commerce acting president Malcolm McLeod said the company had made no secret of the fact that until the transformation was complete, the works were running at a loss. " GFG have provided excellent detail in the last couple of weeks, I think we had four presentations which went for four to six hours each." In a statement, GFG said it was looking at "efficiency options" as part of a "broader plan to transform the business and ensure a sustainable future ".

Whyalla steel works (Source: Wikipedia). It is claimed that Gupta’s company owes around billion to Greensill. This week, following similar action in UK courts, Citibank, acting on behalf of Credit Suisse filed an insolvency application against GFG ’s OneSteel Manufacturing, which operates the Whyalla Earlier this month the Financial Times (FT) reported that the Greensill administrator in Britain had been unable to verify invoices supposedly underpinning loans to Gupta. It said the “disputed invoices raise questions over other transactions underpinning billions of pounds of loans from Greensill to Gupta.”

"We've continuously said throughout this whole process that resolution of it would take a number of weeks, if not months, rather than a number of days," Mr Lamps said.

"Whilst disappointing … our members have known for some time that this is a long process, and they continue, as they've done throughout this whole process, to make steel."

He said "as the days and weeks go on" the union remained confident the financing would be sorted out and Whyalla would receive more clarity.

"Whilst disappointing, [the investigation is] probably not surprising to some, given the complexity and given the number of entities caught up in the Greensill matter that regulatory authorities would have a view of investigating."

Meanwhile, South Australia's Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said although it was "business as usual" in Whyalla, Mr Gupta's "significant" investment in the state meant "these are matters which we always keep an eye on".

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UK-based GFG Alliance plans to replace the 1.2mn t/yr blast furnace at its Whyalla steelworks in South Australia (SA) with a larger capacity direct-reduced iron (DRI) plant and electric-arc furnace (EAF). The change is part of a major upgrade of the plant that is scheduled to be completed in 2024. It is reviewing the ageing blast furnace to try to reduce costs and improve its competitiveness over the final few years of production before it is decommissioned. GFG acquired the Whyalla steel plant as part of its takeover of Australian steel producer Arrium in 2017. The purchase also included the 10mn t/yr

GFG Alliance , owned by British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta Whyalla 's steelworks are undergoing a massive and costly transformation. Sanjeev Gupta took over the steelworks in 2017. A briefing to the SA Department of Mining and Energy said "without prior notification" a GFG workshop outlined "its proposed options for future investment and intended request for support from the Government".

"People who operate international companies, and have networks and investments around the world, are subject to the integrity bodies of all of those countries in which they operate," Ms Chapman said.

She said it was a matter for British authorities to investigate and that there was no similar investigation underway in Australia.

"There's no indication that there's any integrity body in Australia investigating any conduct that we're aware of in Australia at all," she said.

She said in the time Mr Gupta had owned the steelworks, it had been restructured and had "significant improvement in its profitability".

Council 'continues to receive assurances', mayor says

In a statement, City of Whyalla mayor Clare McLaughlin said the council was not in a position to comment on any investigations on "the other side of the world".

However, she said the council continues to receive assurances from GFG Alliance that it is making progress in refinancing its operations – including in Whyalla – which has been backed up by potential Australian refinancing partner, White Oak Global Advisors.

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"Council also continues to be extremely encouraged by the Whyalla operations' profitability; record rates of production; and strong demand for their product," Ms McLaughlin said.

White Oak yesterday said it would not go ahead with the refinancing while the investigation was ongoing, but today said it continues its efforts to refinance Liberty Primary Metals debt, subject to financial due diligence and acceptable governance.

"Our consideration continues to be providing capital to good companies in critical industries while preserving jobs," the spokesperson said.

In response to the ABC's request for comment, a GFG spokesperson today said the company "continues to work with White Oak towards refinancing of Liberty Primary Metals Australia".

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