Rees-Mogg firm sold shares in Russian bank. Did it have insider knowledge?

Jacob Rees-Mogg: He doesn’t have a moustache to twirl villainously, so he had to adjust his glasses instead.

Isn’t this interesting? (And by “interesting” I mean deeply questionable and disturbing.)

Jacob Rees-Mogg is a partner in a company – Somerset Capital Management – that was criticised for investing £60 million in Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, after he called on then-UK prime minister Theresa May to impose tougher economic sanctions against Russia in the wake of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, back in 2018.

Sberbank had been under European Union sanctions since the Russian invasion of the Crimea in 2014.

But the investment seemed a good one at the time. In March 2018 its London-listed shares were understood to be worth four times what they had been worth in May 2015.

But then, 23 days ago – as the Russia-Ukraine crisis started to gain heat – Rees-Mogg’s firm sold its last shares in the bank, netting £44.5 million:

Rees-Mogg himself is not involved in SCM investment decisions – but he does receive money that the company earns from its investments.

And he has been criticised for maintaining shares in the bank while being involved in UK government policy decisions about Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

The fact that he was involved in these debates makes the company’s decision to divest itself of these shares… questionable, if not downright suspicious.

The value of the bank’s shares, we’re told, has halved since SCM sold what it had.

It might all have been above-board. Rees-Mogg may have had nothing to do with the decision to sell.

But we will never know. And that’s what makes this suspicious.

There is a clear conflict of interest that has gone undeclared, unremarked, and ignored.

As part of the most corrupt UK government in living memory – if not in history – we all think he’s entirely capable of passing on information from policy meetings for the purpose of his own enrichment.

And that undermines trust in the UK government and its decisions – as a whole. We cannot safely assume that our leaders’ choices are made solely in the national interest because we have reason to believe that they are acting for themselves.

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