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Greensill Capital planned to use an early payments scheme for health workers as a lever to secure more lucrative work with the NHS, according to people familiar with the matter and a presentation from the finance group, which fell into administration last month.

Greensill, whose collapse also revealed a lobbying scandal centred on its adviser David Cameron, introduced a scheme for NHS staff to cash their pay cheque bit-by-bit every day.

Founder Lex Greensill announced the programme last year as the UK was hit by Covid-19 as a way of offering NHS workers the equivalent of a “free cup of tea”. But behind the scenes, Greensill had already embarked on a whistle-stop tour of NHS trusts in an attempt to parlay the scheme into paying business.

Cameron’s attempts to lobby for Greensill included contacting the most senior UK Treasury official and sending multiple messages to the deputy Bank of England governor, it emerged as the first of eight inquiries into the scandal opened on Thursday. Creditors also voted to liquidate the London-based finance group’s Australian parent.

Credit Suisse, meanwhile, is raising $1.9bn of capital from investors in an attempt to rebuild its balance sheet as it reels from the Greensill crisis.

Coronavirus digest

  • The reopening of the economy pushed UK consumer confidence to its highest level since the first Covid-19 restrictions. Government scientific advisers are split on whether to recommend all under-40s be offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as rare blood-clotting cases continued to rise.

  • UK officials complained they were “drowning” in requests for PPE from MPs, ministers and other “VIP” contacts at the start of the pandemic, the High Court heard on Thursday.

  • India reported a world record of 315,000 new coronavirus infections in a single day on Wednesday, surpassing the US peak from this year.

  • Singapore and Hong Kong called off an announcement of an air-travel bubble — the second delay of the quarantine-free programme in five months.

  • European bond markets strengthened after the ECB held policy in place, reaffirming its commitment to low borrowing costs and saying it would maintain its recently increased pace of bond purchases. (FT, Bloomberg)

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In the news

Beijing fights to control Ant Group data China’s central bank is attempting to take control of Ant Group’s trove of consumer lending data, one of the most valuable assets in Jack Ma’s internet empire, marking the latest front in the government crackdown on the billionaire’s financial technology group.

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UK ministers seek advisory ‘investment council’ Ministers have asked more than 30 business chiefs from large multinationals to form an “investment council” that will advise the government on boosting the UK’s global competitiveness and helping attract overseas investors to critical national projects.

US aims to lead by example on climate change The US opened a two-day virtual climate summit with a vow to cut its carbon emissions in half by the end of this decade, which President Joe Biden said would help create jobs and maintain American competitiveness. Canada, Japan and South Korea also made new climate commitments. Follow our live blog for the latest.

Biden to raise taxes on richest Americans The US president is preparing to unveil a string of tax increases on wealthy Americans, including almost doubling levies on capital gains for people earning more than $1m, to pay for an increase of funding for childcare and education. Wall Street stocks turned lower following reports of the tax rises.

Russia to pull back from Ukraine border Russia’s defence minister has ordered tens of thousands of recently deployed troops to return to their bases from Friday, easing immediate fears of a conflict and reducing tensions with the west. The rouble rose as much as 1.4 per cent against the dollar on the news. The military build-up was designed to show Moscow still calls the shots.

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Russia’s announcement on Thursday that it would wind down its military presence eased fears that the Kremlin was planning for a full-scale confrontation with Kyiv
Russia’s announcement on Thursday that it would wind down its military presence eased fears that the Kremlin was planning for a full-scale confrontation with Kyiv © AP

Wirecard workers hauled millions in shopping bags Employees of the collapsed Germany payments group hauled millions of euros of cash out of its Munich headquarters in plastic bags over a period of years, according to former staff, suggesting that Wirecard was looted even more brazenly than known.

EM issuers raise record $191bn on foreign debt markets Borrowing in poor and middle-income countries through eurobonds — debt issued overseas, mostly in dollars, euros and yen — reached a quarterly peak in the three months to March 2021, with fundraising reaching $191bn. Investors said risks were mounting as countries endured a Covid-19 resurgence.

Column chart of Combined sovereign and corporate issuance from emerging markets, $bn showing EM eurobond issuance at record high in first quarter of this year

The days ahead

UK spymaster’s cyber threat warning Jeremy Fleming, GCHQ director, will warn on Friday that the UK faces a “moment of reckoning” in the race to protect future technologies from adversaries such as China and Russia.

CDC meet over J&J jab The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to decide its next steps on the J&J coronavirus vaccine, which was paused over side-effects.

US earnings round-up American Express, Kimberly-Clark, Schlumberger and Honeywell report on Friday.

Economic data The UK has retail sales data for March out. Economies with April flash PMI include the eurozone, France, Germany, the UK and the US. Russia has a rate decision.

Asean-Myanmar summit The south-east Asian regional grouping has called a leaders summit in Jakarta on Saturday to discuss the crisis following a military coup in Myanmar.

Oscars kicks off The 93rd Academy Awards get under way on Sunday evening. Here are the nominees. (NYT)

Join the authors of FT’s Moral Money newsletter on the Clubhouse app on Friday at 2pm EDT/7pm GMT for a discussion with investor Anthony Scaramucci and the Energy Web Foundation about sustainable cryptocurrency. Sign up here to receive Moral Money in your inbox.

What else we’re reading

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon: from allies to enemies It was the alliance that took the Scottish National party from fractious opposition to the 2014 independence referendum. But harassment complaints against Salmond have thrown the partnership into a ferocious battle that has upended Scottish politics — and threatens to undermine Scotland’s independence movement.

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Illustration of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon
Although his deputy was always supportive in public, Salmond valued Sturgeon’s willingness to stand up to him in private © Barry Falls

The ‘crazy’ frontline death of Chad’s strongman By the time Chad’s electoral commission had declared President Idriss Déby Itno the winner of his sixth term, the former general was already dead or dying from wounds sustained in a firefight with a rebel convoy sweeping south from Libya — heralding an uncertain era in the Sahel.

Russia changes orbit The International Space Station, the largest-ever global collaboration in science and engineering, has been a meeting point for astronauts since 1998. Moscow’s departure from the project is expected to lead to more space collaboration with Beijing — and bring two decades of rare co-operation with the west to a close.

Astronaut James H Newman during a spacewalk in 1998 © NASA/Getty
Russia announced this week that it will withdraw from the $150bn ISS in 2025, ending a remarkable period of international co-operation that dates back to the perestroika period at the end of the cold war © Getty Images

The data invisibility of Asian Americans The lack of Asian American representation in national surveys means the voices of Asian voters, the fastest-growing group in battleground states such as Georgia and Texas, are lost in news coverage, writes Christine Zhang.

  • The US Senate voted to pass a bill aimed at improving law enforcement’s ability to respond to hate crimes, highlighting those targeting Asian Americans.

A New York City protest demanding an end to anti-Asian violence
A New York City protest demanding an end to anti-Asian violence © Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Dogecoin is a joke but it’s no laughing matter The meme cryptocurrency, part of a wave of excess that has spread across speculative assets, was briefly worth $54bn this week. Does that mean the whole market is in a phase of wild excess? Not necessarily — but it is still a risk. (WSJ)

Illustration of the day

Banx: Biden talks of ‘decisive decade’ to tackle climate change

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