It was October 2012 and David Cameron was flanked by senior ministers — as well as Australian financier Lex Greensill — as he announced a new scheme designed to speed up payments to government suppliers.

The then British prime minister described the “supply chain finance” initiative as a “win-win” for industry, when the UK had only just emerged from recession. Under the scheme, suppliers’ bills were settled up front by banks, for a small charge, rather than the typical 60 to 90-day wait with contractors. The aim was to ease their cash flow at a time when banks were wary of traditional lending.

Cameron had no idea he was helping create a central plank in Carillion’s later scandal.

The British construction group went into liquidation in 2018 after it could no longer service its £7bn of debt, becoming one of the biggest corporate collapses in recent British history. It had just £29m of cash at the time.

In the midst of the…

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