Infosys to close Russia operations as Rishi Sunak under growing pressure over family’s stake in IT firm

Move comes a day after chancellor hit out at ‘very upsetting’ criticism of his wife, who has shares in firm

Andy Gregory
Friday 01 April 2022 20:05 BST
At least I didn’t slap anybody for criticising my wife, says Rishi Sunak

Indian IT firm Infosys , in which Rishi Sunak’s wife owns shares worth hundreds of milllions of pounds, is to close its operations Russia following pressure over its continued presence in the country amid Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The company is to halt its business in Moscow, where it is thought to have nearly 100 employees, The Independent understands.

Mr Sunak has faced repeated questioning over his family links to the firm, which was founded by the chancellor’s father-in-law and in which his wife, Akshata Murthy owns a 0.91 per cent stake reportedly worth nearly £700m.

Earlier on Friday Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged Mr Sunak to “come clean” over whether his family had benefitted from any Russia-related interests since Moscow’s invasion.

Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian MP, said this week that profits made by company operating in Russia should be viewed as “bloody money”.

Infosys declined to comment on the closure of its Moscow operations but sources told the BBC that the company was finding replacement roles abroad for its staff in Russia.

In a statement earlier this week, the firm said it had fewer than 100 members of staff in Moscow who service global clients based in Russia.

“We do not have any active business relationships with local Russian enterprises,” the company’s statement said.

Founded in 1981 by Narayana Murthy and six other engineers, Infosys is now one of India’s largest companies, employing some 267,000 people across more than 50 countries.

Having previously served as chief executive, Mr Murthy stepped down from the board in 2012 to take the position of chairman emeritus.

Speaking to BBC Newscast on Thursday, Mr Sunak said he felt “nothing but enormous pride and admiration for everything that” his father in law has achieved and that “no amount of attempted smearing is going to make me change that”.

The chancellor – who has previously told British firms to “think very carefully” about making any investments potentially beneficial to Mr Putin’s regime – hit out at the questioning he has faced in recent days, calling it “very upsetting and, I think, wrong for people to try and come at my wife”.

Mr Sunak compared the criticism of his wife to the Will Smith Oscars scandal, saying: “At least I didn’t get up and slap anybody, which is good.”

But on Friday, Sir Keir suggested it was “a fundamental question of principle” whether Mr Sunak’s household was “benefitting from money made in Russia when the government has put in place sanctions”.

“That is in the public interest for us to have an answer to — I’m not attacking their family, I don’t agree with that way of politics,” the Labour leader told Sky News.

“But I do want to know if the chancellor’s household is benefiting from money from a company that’s investing in Russia when the government is saying quite rightly that nobody should be doing that”.

He added: “I would have thought the chancellor would actually want to come clean on this and say ‘actually I can be very, very clear that my household doesn’t benefit from any money that’s come in any way from Russia during this invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s a simple question, I think he should just answer it. It would actually help his wife if he just answered the question”.

A spokesperson for the chancellor told The Independent that Ms Murthy is “one of thousands of minority shareholders” in Infosys, adding: “It is a public company and neither her nor any member of her family have any involvement in the operational decisions of the company.”

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