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Fraud Probe Rocks Gupta Empire Just as It Seemed to Win Lifeline

(Bloomberg) — Sanjeev Gupta’s plans to save his embattled industrial empire suffered a major setback as the U.K. opened a fraud investigation, prompting a potential financial partner to walk away.For two months, Gupta has been scrambling to refinance after the collapse of his group’s main lender, Greensill Capital, and recently looked close to winning a reprieve — helped along by a surging commodity prices.But on Friday, the Serious Fraud Office announced a probe into Gupta’s GFG Alliance, including into the financing arrangements with Greensill. That prompted White Oak Global Advisors LLC — which had recently offered a lifeline with terms for a 200 million-pound ($282 million) loan for Gupta’s U.K. steel business — to walk away. White Oak was also behind funding for part of Gupta’s Australian assets, the Australian Financial Review has said.“As with any regulated financial institution, we are not in a position to continue discussions with any company that is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for money laundering,” White Oak said in a statement.GFG said Friday it will co-operate fully with the SFO investigation. It declined to comment on White Oak’s decision.The fraud probe also puts other efforts to replace about $5 billion Gupta had borrowed from Greensill in question.On Thursday, Gupta had conveyed a much brighter outlook, expressing confidence of a “new future” for his sprawling group of companies. On a podcast for employees, he said it had been “relatively easy to get refinancing” for the Whyalla mill in Australia. He also said that GFG had been “inundated by offers to help and to finance,” partly due to strong commodity markets.The picture is now bleaker in the wake of the SFO investigation, which follows months of scrutiny from lawmakers and the media over Gupta and Greensill’s financing practices. GFG has come under the microscope…