Nadhim Zahawi was sacked as UK Conservative Party chairman over a tax scandal
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak bowed to pressure on Sunday by firing Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, who had been criticized for his personal tax arrangements.
Altar last week ordered its ethics adviser to investigate Zahawi after allegations he paid a penalty as part of a reported £4.8 million ($5.96 million) settlement with tax officials. It is alleged that Zahawi did not declare the dispute to the tax authorities.
Zahawi was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer – the Treasury Secretary – by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July last year. He remained in cabinet under Johnson’s successor Liz Truss and her successor Sunak, who made him party chairman.
In a letter to Zahawi, Sunak said that after the investigation had completed its work, “it is clear that there was a serious breach of the ministerial code”.
“As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty’s Government.”
News of Mr Zahawi’s multimillion-dollar settlement with tax officials has shocked Britons, many of whom are struggling to survive amid the cost-of-living crisis.
The opposition Labor Party said Sunak, who came to office promising “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”, should have fired Zahawi when the allegations were first reported this month instead of trying to buy time by an investigation begins.
Senior Labor MP Bridget Philipson told Sky News the scandal exposed Sunak as a “weak” leader.
“The stench of slop just hangs around the Conservative Party,” she said.
Sunak himself has also been scrutinized over his wife’s tax arrangements Akshata Murthy, daughter of an Indian billionaire. Last year, Sunak and Murthy appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List of the UK’s 250 richest people – the newspaper estimated their combined net worth at £730 million ($826 million).
It emerged last year that Murthy enjoyed “non-domiciled” status in the UK, meaning she could legally avoid paying UK tax on her foreign earnings from family business group Infosys.
Last week he apologized for his second police fine, for not wearing a seat belt while driving. While chancellor, Sunak was fined by the police along with Johnson for attending quarantine-breaking parties held in UK government buildings.
In a letter responding to his dismissal published on Sunday, Zahawi said it had been the privilege of his life to serve in successive UK governments. He did not specifically refer to the findings of the ethics investigation into his tax affairs.
“I arrived in this country fleeing persecution and I don’t speak English. Here I built a successful business and served in some of the highest government positions. I believe that in no other country on earth would my story be possible,” the statement read.
Zahawi was born in Iraq to Kurdish parents and came to the UK as a child when his family fled Saddam Hussein’s regime. He is believed to be one of the richest politicians in the House of Commons and helped found the polling company YouGov.
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