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Company with shares held by Chancellor’s wife reportedly closing Russia office

Rishi Sunak has come under pressure over wife Akshata Murthy’s 0.91% stake in Infosys, which is now said to be closing down its Moscow site.

01 April 2022

An Indian technology company in which the Chancellor’s wife owns shares is reportedly closing its office in Russia and seeking replacement roles for its Moscow staff abroad.

Rishi Sunak has come under pressure over his wife, Akshata Murthy, having a 0.91% stake in Infosys, as it continued to operate in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

A previous statement from the company, founded by Ms Murthy’s billionaire father NR Narayana Murthy, reportedly said there was a “small team” based in Russia that serviced global clients, but that the firm did not have “any active business relationships with local Russian enterprises”.

But the BBC reported on Friday that Infosys is now closing its office in Russia, and attempting to find replacement roles outside of the country for staff employed in Moscow.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats had both called for Mr Sunak to answer questions over the issue.

In the Commons on Thursday, a Labour shadow minister was forced to withdraw a claim that Mr Sunak was “hypocritical” because of his family’s shares in the company.

In an interview aired later on the BBC’s Newscast podcast, Mr Sunak said: “You know, I think it’s totally fine for people to take shots at me. It’s fair game. I’m the one sitting here and that’s what I signed up for.”

But he said it was “very upsetting” and “wrong” for people to direct criticism at his wife.

“Actually, it’s very upsetting and, I think, wrong for people to try and come at my wife, and you know, beyond that actually, with regard to my father-in-law, for whom I have nothing but enormous pride and admiration for everything that he’s achieved, and no amount of attempted smearing is going to make me change that because he’s wonderful and has achieved a huge amount, as I said, I’m enormously proud of him,” he said.

He jokingly compared himself to Will Smith in “having our wives attacked”, referring to the incident where actor Mr Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, after the comedian had made a joke about his wife’s alopecia.

“Someone said, ‘Joe Root, Will Smith, and me – not the best of weekends for any of us’,” he said.

Previously, Mr Sunak had refused to answer questions about his wife’s involvement in the company.

Asked on Sky News whether his family was going against advice given to companies over connections with Russia, he said: “I’m an elected politician, and I’m here to talk to you about what I’m responsible for. My wife is not.”

He said he had “nothing to do with that company”.

Infosys and Mr Sunak have been approached for comment.

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