British Prime Minister Sunak sacks party leader Zahawi over tax issues

British Prime Minister Sunak sacks party leader Zahawi over tax issues
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  • Zahawi noted that he was not open about the tax investigation
  • Independent consultant finds serious violations of code
  • The deputy prime minister is under investigation
  • Scandal hurts PM Sunak’s reset attempt

LONDON, Jan 29 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday sacked Conservative Party leader Nadhim Zahawi after an inquiry found he had committed a serious breach by not speaking openly about a tax investigation , the latest scandal to hit one of Sunak’s top ministers.

Sunak initially stood by Zahawi before hiring an independent adviser to investigate issues related to his tax affairs after it was revealed Zahawi had settled an investigation by HMRC last year.

Zahawi said the tax authority decided he had been “careless” with his declarations but had not intentionally made a mistake in order to pay less tax, which validated him penalty paid this HMRC.

Sunak’s independent adviser Laurie Magnus said Zahawi did not say his tax affairs would be investigated when he was briefly appointed finance minister last year and failed to disclose details when Sunak appointed him to his current position.

“Following the completion of the independent counsel’s investigation … it is clear that there has been a serious violation of the ministerial code,” Sunak said in a letter to Zahawi.

“Consequently, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty’s Government.”

Zahawi’s reply to Sunak made no mention of HMRC or the independent adviser’s investigation. He expressed concern about the behavior of some media outlets in recent weeks and said he will support Sunak’s agenda as the legislature’s backbench.

“I feel sorry for my family for the toll this has taken on them,” he said.

It’s a setback for Sunak’s attempt to reshuffle government after a chaotic year with three different British prime ministers. An investigation regarding alleged bullying by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab continues and could cause further headaches.

A Conservative MP said Zahawi’s sacking was “clearly the right decision,” adding that Zahawi “should have resigned to avoid embarrassment.”

“Raab is very different,” said the lawmaker, who declined to be named. “One man’s bullying is another’s fixed direction.” Raab you have denied bullying allegations.

The opposition Labor Party said Sunak had shown weakness in how he handled the Zahawi and Raab cases.

“It is important that we get answers now as to what Rishi Sunak knew and when he knew it,” said Labor Party education spokesman Bridget Phillipson on Sunday.

Zahawi’s sacking comes as Sunak’s government, which is facing decades of inflation and a spate of public sector strikes, is performing poorly in opinion polls ahead of the expected 2024 election.


Magnus said the details of HMRC’s own investigation – into Zahawi’s co-founding of polling firm YouGov in 2000 and how many shares his father took over to support its launch – were outside the scope of his own investigation.

But he noted that Zahawi had failed to explain HMRC’s investigation into the affairs or acknowledge that it was a serious matter. Last July, Zahawi described reports about his tax affairs as “blatant slander.”

Zahawi only corrected the records last week when he said he had reached an agreement with authorities.

“I believe this delay in correcting an untrue public statement is inconsistent with the requirement for openness,” Magnus said in a letter to Sunak.

He added that Zahawi’s own behavior “disregarded” the requirement to be “honest, open and a model leader”.

Zahawi became finance minister after Sunak resigned from his post in July last year, which helped end Boris Johnson’s scandal-ridden premiership.

In replacing Liz Truss as prime minister after her brief but tumultuous stint in power, Sunak pledged that “this government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”.

But the reboot got off to a rough start. Along with the investigations into Zahawi and Raab, Sunak has just reappointed Home Secretary Suella Braverman five days after Truss sacked her for breaching Ministerial Code on safety rules, while in November Minister Gavin Williamson resigned about allegations of bullying.

Asked whether Conservative politicians consistently follow their own rules, Prime Minister Michael Gove said there are “always people who fall short”.

“Because someone makes a mistake or commits a sin, that shouldn’t automatically be taken as an opportunity to condemn an ​​entire organization,” he told the BBC.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper Edited by Alison Williams and Toby Chopra

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

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