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Good morning. We have an exclusive story today from London on Michelle Mone, the Conservative peer at the centre of a scandal relating to the sale of allegedly faulty personal protective equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic.
About £75mn of assets linked to Mone and her husband have been frozen or restrained by court order as the pair face a National Crime Agency investigation into alleged PPE fraud.
The court order seen by the Financial Times covers assets including a six-bedroom Belgravia townhouse, a country estate on the Isle of Man and 15 accounts at Coutts, C Hoare & Co and Goldman Sachs International.
The December restraint order blocks Mone and her Isle of Man-based financier husband, Douglas Barrowman, from selling some of the assets and places restrictions on others.
The order was consented to by Mone and Barrowman and followed an application by the Crown Prosecution Service under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The CPS acts in court on cases investigated by other agencies. Here are more details on the case.
And here’s what I’m keeping tabs on today and over the weekend:
Economic data: France and Germany release their monthly consumer confidence surveys today.
ICJ genocide case: The Hague court is expected to give a preliminary ruling today on South Africa’s case against Israel’s actions in Gaza under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The treaty was a response to the Holocaust, whose victims are being commemorated tomorrow as part of Holocaust Memorial day.
Macron in India: The French president meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 75th annual Republic Day in India. Financial markets are closed in the country today.
Companies: Paragon Banking Group and WHSmith have trading updates today, while American Express and Colgate-Palmolive report fourth-quarter results.
Finland election: Voters in the Nordic nation pick their country’s next president on Sunday. The favourite to win is former prime minister Alex Stubb, who told the FT this week that his country did not fear Russia.
How well did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz.
Five more top stories
1. Exclusive: Lightspeed Venture Partners is seeking to use a private equity-style structure to sell $1bn worth of start-up stakes and free up cash to return to investors. Lightspeed, which has $25bn in assets under management and has made early investments in Snap, Rubrik and Nest, approached investors about selling a portfolio of 10 holdings, according to people familiar with the matter. Read more on the move by one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capital firms.
2. Exclusive: Bob Sternfels has failed to win the support of a majority of McKinsey’s senior partners in the second round of its leadership ballot, forcing him into a run-off against the head of its digital strategy business, Rodney Zemmel. Sternfels is seeking a second three-year term at the helm of the consulting firm. Stephen Foley has more details from New York.
More leadership moves: JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon has shuffled his leadership team and consolidated some of the bank’s businesses, grooming potential candidates who could eventually take over from him.
3. A Brazilian court has ordered iron ore producer Samarco along with its owners Vale and BHP to pay R$47.6bn ($9.7bn) in compensation for a dam collapse that triggered one of the country’s worst environmental catastrophes. The accident in November 2015 unleashed an avalanche of mud that killed 19 people, devastated surrounding villages and contaminated hundreds of kilometres of waterways. Here’s more on the ruling.
4. Jeremy Hunt’s hopes of offering big pre-election tax cuts have suffered a setback after the Treasury’s internal analysis said the UK chancellor would have fiscal headroom — the buffer against his own borrowing rules — of £14bn, only marginally more than the £13bn he put aside in his Autumn Statement in November. Here’s how the forecast could affect Hunt’s spending decisions.
UK labour: The government is taking a “do as I say, not as I do attitude” when it comes to prioritising local staff over cheaper foreign workers, its top migration adviser told the FT.
UK economy: British consumer confidence rose to a two-year high in January, according to research company GfK, the third straight month-on-month increase.
5. Talks over a deal to release the remaining hostages held in Gaza have become deadlocked over Israel’s refusal to agree to a permanent ceasefire. The latest Qatari proposal included a pause in hostilities in Gaza for about a month, during which Hamas would release the remaining hostages in exchange for Israel freeing Palestinian prisoners over three phases, said two people briefed on the negotiations. Read the full story.
War updates: Israel’s foreign ministry has written to diplomatic missions in the country to ask if they have back-up generators and satellite phones in case of a “security escalation”.
Houthi rebels: The Iran-backed group is winning praise across the Arab world for defending Palestinians, helping the Yemen-based militants escape scrutiny for their increasingly repressive tactics at home.
The 359,000 pages of planning applications and £800mn spent on the Lower Thames Crossing would suggest that construction for the new 14-mile road and tunnel to the east of London was well under way. But as the estimated cost soars to nearly £9bn, it remains unclear whether it will ever be built. The tribulations faced by the project are far from unique in the UK. How did a country once renowned for world-beating railways, bridges and water systems become a case study in how not to build infrastructure?
We’re also reading . . .
Junk fees: We all hate them, writes Soumaya Keynes, but ditching unexpected charges is much more complicated than you might think.
England’s greenbelt: The sacrosanct land around cities is at the centre of a politically fraught debate about the UK’s housing shortage.
‘Gateway to freedom’: Krasnopillya in north-east Ukraine has become an escape route for those fleeing Russian-occupied regions — the last border crossing between the countries at war.
UK politics: A week of Tory plots against Rishi Sunak, with fingers pointed at supporters of Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Suella Braverman, have caused further damage to the prime minister.
Will the anti-Sunak rebellion succeed? For the inside track on British politics and policy, sign up for our Inside Politics newsletter by Stephen Bush.
Chart of the day
One of the most well-established patterns in measuring public opinion is that every generation tends to move as one in terms of its politics and general ideology, writes John Burn-Murdoch. But with Gen Z, a new global gender divide is emerging with potentially far-reaching consequences.
Take a break from the news
“Dog-face”. The mythological Helen of Troy maligns herself with this odd turn of phrase in Emily Wilson’s new translation of Homer’s Iliad. FT Magazine’s Duncan Fyfe discusses how the classicist’s choice of term is critical to understanding why literature’s most beautiful woman is also its most despised.
Additional contributions from Benjamin Wilhelm and Gordon Smith
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