Sunak Swerves Insider Bet Questions as Police Probe Widens

(Bloomberg) -- Rishi Sunak refused to answer media questions on the betting scandal embroiling his Conservative Party ahead of the UK election, as the police expanded a probe into whether people close to the premier tried to profit from insider information by placing bets on the timing of the July 4 vote.

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“It’s absolutely not right, when there are ongoing independent investigations, that those are compromised in any way,” Sunak told Sky News, repeatedly refusing to say whether he told his parliamentary aide Craig Williams — who has acknowledged placing a bet — the date of the election before he announced it.

His refusal came even as Sky News said several times the premier would not be prejudicing the probe if he answered the question. The Gambling Commission and the Conservative Party are also conducting inquiries. “They are rightly confidential and it’s important they stay that way,” Sunak said.

The issue centers on whether Conservative candidates and officials knew about the date of the election before Sunak made it public late last month, and then used the information to place a bet. The gambling scandal widened when a Labour candidate was suspended for betting on the election — though that was a wager on himself to lose the seat he was contesting.

The Metropolitan Police said Thursday it would investigate a “small number” of bets made on the timing of the UK general election, elevating the seriousness.

The majority of cases under investigation are suspected breaches of provisions of the Gambling Act which outlaw cheating, the Met said. They would be investigated by the Gambling Commission, as part of a joint probe with police.

But other wagers may have incurred additional offenses such as misconduct in public office, the Met said. A close protection police officer working for Sunak was arrested this month on suspicion of that offense.

The police statement suggests some of the people facing scrutiny may have committed offenses if they did so with inside knowledge.

The episode has resonated with voters because its reinforced perceptions that politicians are more focused on personal gain than serving the public. The bets in question would’ve been placed at time when even some senior members of Sunak’s Cabinet were in the dark about his plans to call a rare summer vote.

Both Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer were questioned about the scandal at the final televised debate before the election. Sunak repeated his line that he was “incredibly angry” about the revelations. Starmer vowed to “reset” politics if he wins the election, as opinion polls have consistently projected.

(Updates with Sunak comment from first paragraph.)

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