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BBC chairman Richard Sharp defended himself against accusations of a conflict of interest during a U.K. parliamentary committee hearing on Tuesday.
He appeared in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons after recent news reports said that he had helped to arrange a loan guarantee for Boris Johnson just weeks before the then-U.K. prime minister recommended Sharp for his current role at the British public broadcaster. With Sharp under fire, the BBC board then unveiled that it would investigate the issue.
“I have never given financial advice to the former prime minister,” Sharp said on Tuesday, reiterating a previous statement on the issue. “I know nothing about his personal financial affairs,” he later added. “I didn’t facilitate a loan,” he also said in answering a question.
“I believe I was appointed on merit,” Sharp also said at one point during Tuesday’s committee grilling.
“Following the recent media reports regarding your appointment as chair of the BBC, the committee would like to invite you to appear before it,” acting committee chair Damian Green had written to Sharp. “The committee intends to cover the issues raised in your pre-appointment hearing and any developments since then.”
The Sunday Times had reported last month that the former Goldman Sachs banker Sharp, 66, who has also been a donor to Johnson’s Conservative Party, was involved in arranging a guarantor for a loan of up to £800,000 ($990,000) for now ex-prime minister Johnson after he had reached the final stages of the BBC chair recruitment process.
Sharp has previously said that he “simply connected” people. “There is not a conflict,” he has argued, emphasizing that he “had no further involvement whatsoever.” A Johnson representative has said that he did not receive financial advice from Sharp. A BBC spokesman has said: “The BBC plays no role in the recruitment of the chair, and any questions are a matter for the government.”
Sharp has previously also said: “Our work at the BBC is rooted in trust. Although the appointment of the BBC chairman is solely a matter for the government, I want to ensure that all the appropriate guidelines have been followed.”
The U.K. opposition had called for a probe, with Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds writing to the parliamentary commissioner for standards to ask for “an urgent investigation into the facts of this case.”
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