UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak bowed to pressure on Sunday by sacking Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi for a “serious breach” of the Ministerial Code, after days of criticism over his personal tax arrangements.
Sunak last week he ordered his ethics adviser to investigate Zahawi following claims he had paid a fine as part of a £4.8 million ($5.96 million) settlement with tax officials. It was alleged that Zahawi did not declare the dispute with the tax authorities.
Zahawi was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July last year. He remained in the cabinet under Johnson’s successor, Liz Truss, and his successor, Sunak, who named him party chairman.
In a letter to Zahawi, Sunak said that once the investigation completed its work, “it is clear that there has been a serious violation of the Ministerial Code. As a result, I have informed him of my decision to remove him from his position in His Majesty’s Government.” The UK Ministerial Code sets out the standards of conduct expected of ministers and how they carry out their duties.
Reports of Zahawi’s multi-billion dollar settlement with tax officials have shocked Britons, many of whom are struggling to survive amid the cost-of-living crisis.
The opposition Labor Party said Sunak, who took office pledging “integrity, professionalism and accountability at all levels,” should have fired Zahawi when the allegations were first reported this month, rather than trying to buy time by launching a lawsuit. research.
Senior Labor lawmaker Bridget Phillipson told Sky News the scandal exposed Sunak as a “weak” leader.
“The stench of sleaze hangs over the Conservative party,” he said.
Sunak himself has also been scrutinized over his wife’s tax arrangements. akshata murty, the daughter of an Indian billionaire. Last year, Sunak and Murty appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List of the 250 richest people in the UK; the newspaper estimated their joint net worth at £730 million ($826 million).
It emerged last year that Murty had enjoyed “non-resident” status in the UK, which meant he could legally avoid paying UK tax on his overseas earnings from his family’s Infosys business group.
Last week he apologized for receiving his second police ticket, for not wearing a seatbelt while riding in a car. While Chancellor, Sunak was fined by police with Johnson for attending lockdown break parties held at UK government premises.
In a letter in response to his dismissal published on Sunday, Zahawi said it had been the privilege of his life to serve in successful UK governments. He made no explicit reference to the results of the ethical investigation of his tax affairs.
“I came to this country fleeing persecution and not speaking English. Here, I built a successful business and worked in some of the highest government offices. I believe that in no other country on earth would my story be possible,” the statement said.
Zahawi was born in Iraq to Kurdish parents and came to the UK as a child, as 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 YouGov polling company.
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