Nadhim Zahawi fired as UK Conservative Party chair over tax affairs

Nadhim Zahawi fired as UK Conservative Party chair over tax affairs


LONDON — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired the chairman of his Conservative Party on Sunday following an ethics investigation into the chairman’s tax affairs, the latest headache for Sunak’s party, which is trailing badly in polls.

Nadhim Zahawi was dismissed over a “serious breach” of the ministerial code, which governs how ministers should behave, Sunak said in a letter to Zahawi.

The scandal is the latest in a string for Sunak’s Conservative Party, and despite the promise that a steadier hand is now in charge, allegations of “Tory sleaze” and mismanagement continue to dog the government.

The dismissal of Zahawi, a popular party figure, comes after weeks of revelations about his tax affairs. He has come under scrutiny for settling an overdue multimillion-dollar tax bill, along with a penalty, while he was Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, or finance minister — in other words, he was paying a penalty to the tax authorities at the same time he was their boss.

Zahawi was in charge of the country’s Treasury from July to September, in the final months of Boris Johnson’s tenure as prime minister.

Britain’s Rishi Sunak pulled into ‘Tory sleaze’ probes

In his letter to Zahawi on Sunday, Sunak said he made the decision because he had promised that his government would have “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” when he became prime minister late last year, during a particularly tumultuous time in British politics . When Sunak became leader last year, he pitched himself as the person who’d move the party on from the scandals of his predecessors, Liz Truss and Boris Johnson.

Sunak’s decision to sack his chairman came after he ordered an independent ethics adviser, Laurie Magnus, to investigate Zahawi’s tax affairs. The tax bill in question was over the sale of shares in YouGov, the polling agency that Zahawi founded.

In the adviser’s verdict on the situation, Zahawi had not declared that his tax affairs were being investigated when Johnson had made him finance minister. The four-page report published on Sunday also said that Zahawi had failed to disclose details when Sunak made him chair of the Conservative Party. These omissions constituted a failure to meet the standards that ministers are supposed to abide by, the report said.

Zahawi said the tax authority had concluded that there had been a “careless and not deliberate” error but also insisted that he was confident he had “acted properly throughout.”

Sunak initially stood by Zahawi. Now opposition politicians have questioned what the prime minister knew before appointing Zahawi to a senior job in the party.

The Labor Party’s shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, said: “It’s vital that we now get answers to what Rishi Sunak knew and when did he know it. We need to see all the papers, not just have the Prime Minister’s role in this brushed under the carpet.”

William Booth contributed to this report.

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