UK accounting regulator to probe auditor of Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty Commodities

The auditor of Liberty Commodities, part of metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, has been placed under investigation by the UK accounting regulator.

The Financial Reporting Council said on Thursday it was investigating HW Fisher in relation to its audit of Liberty Commodities for the year to March 2020. It did not provide any further details of the investigation.

Liberty Commodities is one of Gupta’s oldest companies, a metals trading business that he has said grew out of an operation set up in his Cambridge university dorm room in the early 1990s.

It is the UK arm of a Singapore-based metals trading business that is now part of GFG – the loose collection of businesses owned by Gupta but which are not part of a formal corporate group.

The auditing of GFG companies by a large number of small and medium-sized accounting firms has led to concerns over whether any single auditor had a clear picture of the group’s finances.

One of those small audit firms, King & King, has faced questions from MPs about whether it was up to the task of auditing the accounts of GFG companies with combined revenues of nearly £ 2.5bn. No investigation has been announced into King & King.

Gupta began to wind down the commodities trading arm last year after scrutiny grew of the invoices it was using to raise financing.

The Financial Times reported last year that loans to Liberty Commodities from Greensill Capital, the commercial lender advised by David Cameron before it collapsed in a corporate and political scandal, were made on the basis of suspect invoices.

HW Fisher is one of Gupta’s longest standing auditors, having audited Liberty Commodities since the late 1990s.

The London-based accountant, which has about 250 staff, has described itself as “a top-25 UK chartered accountancy firm”. It previously carried out scores of audits for other GFG companies but is no longer involved with most of the companies whose financial statements it used to check.

HW Fisher did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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