Ex-UK leader Cameron faces MP grilling over Greensill lobbying

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London (AFP)

British lawmakers will on Thursday get their first chance to quiz former prime minister David Cameron about his controversial lobbying for collapsed finance group Greensill Capital, following months of scandal and revelation.

The former Conservative leader, who was an adviser to the company and reportedly held lucrative stock options that are now worthless, will appear before a parliamentary committee probing lobbying ahead of the loan company's collapse in March.

The firm's implosion threatens about 50,000 jobs at companies around the world that relied on its financing for their supply chains, and has rekindled the debate on the close ties between the upper echelons of British politics and finance.

Cameron, in power from 2010 to 2016, has faced a series of damaging claims he improperly lobbied former government colleagues seeking support for the stricken London-headquartered company at the outset of the pandemic.

In documents published Tuesday by the cross-party Treasury Committee, the ex-prime minister and his office staff sent ministers and officials 45 emails, texts and WhatsApp messages last year relating to Greensill, bypassing official channels.

Cameron, who is set to appear before the committee from 13:30 GMT, has admitted he acted in error but denies any impropriety.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak has previously said he "pressured" his staff to look into Cameron's requests, but insisted they independently assessed the proposals and ultimately rejected them.

Current Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month ordered a senior lawyer to investigate the lobbying efforts for the firm.

- 'Important lessons' -

After weeks of silence, Cameron issued a lengthy statement last month claiming he had violated "no codes of conduct and no government rules".

However, he acknowledged there were "important lessons to be learnt" and accepted that "communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation".

The controversy had deepened after it emerged Cameron had granted the founder of the financial company, the Australian banker Lex Greensill, inside access to the Downing Street machine during his spell in power.

Greensill, the 44-year-old son of sugar cane planters, appeared before the Treasury Committee on Tuesday and insisted he took "full responsibility" for the company's collapse.

But he refused to be drawn over its links to UK government lobbying.

He told the panel of British MPs that Greensill was "thinking about how we could develop and expand our brand as a company" when it had hired Cameron.

The ex-prime minister had advised them on growing the business, providing "analysis" and "geopolitical thinking", he added.

Greensill founded the company, which specialises in short-term loans to businesses to pay their suppliers, in 2011.

It bypassed strict regulations forced upon traditional banks, and granted short-term corporate loans via a complex and opaque business model that ultimately sparked its demise.

When the firm filed for insolvency two months ago, it had an array of clients including steel empire GFG Alliance which employs thousands of workers worldwide.

It emerged on Tuesday that UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority is formally investigating Greensill after allegations that were "potentially criminal in nature".