French police have raided the Paris offices of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance and a metals plant it previously owned as part of an escalating criminal probe into the metals magnate’s empire.
The Paris prosecutor’s office last year launched an investigation into Gupta’s French operations over allegations of “misuse of corporate assets” and “money laundering”, mirroring a separate investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO ) from the United Kingdom.
Once hailed by politicians around the world as the ‘savior of steel’ for rescuing unloved factories and foundries, Gupta’s group came under suspicion of trading fraud after its main lender Greensill Capital collapsed there a year ago.
Last week’s raids included an aluminum smelter in Dunkirk, which Gupta’s family conglomerate lost control of last year when private equity group American Industrial Partners seized the plant.
People close to the raid in Dunkirk said about a dozen armed police arrived early in the morning and stayed all day to interrogate executives and make copies of mail servers.
They added that the questions from the officers related to several transactions made while the factory was under the control of GFG, such as a transaction in which Dunkirk funds were allegedly used to pay for a $25million legal settlement with Rio Tinto. , due to a long dispute over the takeover of the smelter from the mining group in 2018.
A spokesperson for Aluminum Dunkerque confirmed that on Wednesday “agents from the Regional Directorate of Judicial Police of the Paris Police Prefecture (the DRPJ), the criminal investigation division of the French national police, inspected the offices of Aluminum Dunkerque”, adding that the company was “cooperating fully with any investigation by the French authorities“.
GFG said the $25 million payment to Rio Tinto settled an ongoing claim for power supply at “a rebate” with an agreement to “waive all other pre-existing claims between the two groups.”
“The transaction was handled by former GFG executives who have since left the company and was funded by AIP to pave the way for its disputed acquisition of Aluminum Dunkerque,” GFG added.
“GFG has investigated the request from the French authorities and determined that there is no wrongdoing in its French activities regarding this transaction or any other transaction, and it is cooperating fully with the French authorities.”
The Paris prosecutor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Greensill Capital, a once high-flying lending startup that counted David Cameron as an adviser, collapsed in March 2021 after GFG defaulted on $5 billion in debt. The dismantling of Greensill led to scrutiny of the validity of GFG-related invoices that guaranteed the loans.
Germany’s financial watchdog filed a criminal complaint last year against the management of Greensill Bank, which provided billions of euros in loans to Gupta’s businesses. Regulator BaFin said the Bremen-based lender “was unable to provide evidence of the existence of claims on its balance sheet which it purchased from the GFG Alliance group”.
UK financial regulators are also investigating Wyelands Bank, a UK lender owned by Gupta, which nearly collapsed after making a series of dodgy loans to companies linked to the metals tycoon’s business. Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, revealed last year that regulators had also referred the bank to the National Crime Agency and the SFO.
Gupta moved his management team to Dubai following the collapse of Greensill, where the Indian-born businessman has long had a home. He did, however, visit Romania and Australia last year, countries where GFG has large steel mills.
Additional reporting by Michael Pooler and Sylvia Pfeifer