Getting to grips with . . .

How Rishi Sunak’s in-laws made their billions

Tory leadership frontrunner’s father-in-law hailed as the ‘Steve Jobs of India’

Rishi Sunak’s status as favourite to become the next Tory leader and prime minister has again put his wealth in the spotlight, after his wife’s non-domiciled tax status almost scuppered his leadership chances earlier this year.

According to The Sunday Times, Sunak became a “multimillionaire in his mid-twenties”. He was a partner at the hedge fund TCI, where bosses “shared nearly £100m after an audacious stock market bet that lit the touchpaper on the 2008 financial crisis”, said the paper.

Believed to be one of the wealthiest MPs, Sunak’s personal fortune pales in comparison to that of his wife and her family.

Akshata Murty, who he met while studying in the US at Stanford University and married in 2009, is the daughter of Indian billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy. In May, the couple featured in The Sunday Times Rich List at No. 222 with a net worth of £730m. Murty’s 0.93% stake in the IT firm her father founded, Infosys, was said to be worth about £690m.

Who is N.R. Narayana Murthy?

One of India’s richest businessmen, Narayana Murthy is “often referred to as the ‘Steve Jobs of India’”, said The Independent, and hailed as the father of India’s IT boom.

He founded Infosys, which provides business consulting, information technology and outsourcing services, in 1981 using start-up capital of just $250. Today it operates in around 50 countries, including the UK, where it has public sector contracts and employs 10,000 people, reporting worldwide revenues of more than $13.5bn last year.

Having previously spoken about how the family did not have money for a television or non-essential goods when the children were growing up, Murthy’s rags-to-riches personal story “tracks closely with India’s own path to becoming a successful global IT hub”, said The Independent.

“Known for putting an emphasis on business ethics and corporate governance, at a time when nepotism was rife across many of Infosys’s competitors”, said the news site, he stepped down from Infosys in 2014 but maintains a minority stake, with one estimate by Forbes putting his net worth at £4.4bn.

Murthy has also served on the boards of major international corporations, including multinational banks HSBC and ICICI. He is also the chairman of Catamaran Ventures, an investment firm that manages over $1bn in assets.

Is Infosys a problem for Sunak?

When an investigation by The Guardian in 2020 first raised questions about the multimillion-pound portfolio of shareholdings and directorships held by Sunak and his wife that had not been declared in the official register of ministers’ interests, the paper said it “could be seen to present a conflict, because Infosys is a contractor to the UK government and publicly funded organisations”.

According to the paper, since 2015 the firm has won taxpayer-funded work worth £22m and also worked for the Home Office, signing a framework agreement with Whitehall, which means it can be awarded contracts without competition.

Earlier this year, eyebrows were raised when it was claimed that Infosys was the main beneficiary of a May 2021 £1bn trade deal between the UK and India, something disputed by the fact-checking website Full Fact.

Questions around tax were “never likely to prove problematic for the Murthy family, given the strength of its reputation in India, built up over decades, but their huge wealth could continue to create problems for Sunak”, said The Independent, especially as “a member of a super-rich elite pitching to lead Britain through a brutal cost-of-living crisis”.

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