Rishi Sunak dismisses one of his ministers because of his tax problems

Rishi Sunak dismisses one of his ministers because of his tax problems


The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, fired one of his ministers on Sunday, pinned down for having failed to declare his problems with the tax authorities, in a gesture of firmness in the face of a cumbersome affair. 

Minister without portfolio and president of the conservative party, Nadhim Zahawi, 55, was guilty of a “serious violation of the ministerial code”, estimated Rishi Sunak in view of the conclusions of the independent investigation he had launched on Monday.

“Accordingly, I inform you of my decision to remove you from your functions in the government”, wrote the conservative leader.

In power for almost 100 days in a United Kingdom in the grip of a succession of strikes and inflation that exceeds 10%, Rishi Sunak displays a posture of authority by dismissing Nadhim Zahawi rather than asking him to resign.

Above all, he seeks to translate into action his promise, made when he arrived in Downing Street at the end of October, to show “integrity, professionalism and responsibility”, after the succession of scandals under Boris Johnson and the chaos on the financial markets. under Liz Truss.

Relentlessly accusing the Prime Minister of being 'weak', the Labor opposition is not letting up the pressure and is now urging Rishi Sunak to explain what he knew Nadhim Zahawi's tax troubles.

He had reached an agreement in principle with the tax authorities in August 2022, when he was Boris Johnson's finance minister, before ratifying it the following month.

“Inaccurate declarations »

According to the press, Nadhim Zahawi has paid what he owed to the tax authorities, accompanied by penalties, for nearly five million pounds sterling (5.7 million euros).

But he waited until January 21 to publicly admit it. “A deadline to correct inaccurate public statements incompatible with the transparency requirement”, according to the investigation by ethics adviser Laurie Magnus.

This concluded that Nadhim Zahawi should have declared the tax investigation of which he was the subject and should also have updated his declaration of interests once his dispute with the tax authorities has been settled.

He thus curbed the “omissions” of Nadhim Zahawi, who did not “take sufficient account” of the principles of public life consisting in being “open, honest and an exemplary leader by his own behavior”.

The dispute concerned the sale by Nadhim Zahawi of shares in the YouGov polling institute, which he had founded in 2000, estimated at 27 million pounds sterling (30 million euros at the current rate), held via a investment, Balshore Investments, registered in Gibraltar and linked to the Zahawi family.

He had alleged 'negligence' and not a deliberate act. After brandishing the threat of libel suits, he in his response to Rishi Sunak on Sunday expressed his concern about the behavior of some media.

Conflicts of interest

Nadhim Zahawi, born to Kurdish parents in Baghdad, arrived as a child in the United Kingdom, where he made his fortune, before entering politics. In government, he notably oversaw the vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

After 13 years in power, the Tories have seen their reputation tarnished by conflict of interest cases in recent years, fueling accusations of corruption by the Labor opposition, which is well ahead in the polls within two years of the next general election.

Then Finance Minister Rishi Sunak found himself at the heart of a controversy last year, after the press revealed that his wealthy wife, Akshata Murty, of Indian nationality, benefited from an advantageous tax status.

Rishi Sunak had been exonerated from any violation of the ministerial code, but his wife had announced shortly after that she was renouncing this status, which allowed him to to avoid paying tax on overseas income to the UK tax authorities.

Nearly 10 days ago, Rishi Sunak was fined for not wearing his seatbelt security while shooting video in the back of a car.

When he was Boris Johnson's finance minister, he was fined in the 'Partygate' scandal, for being present at a rally for the Prime Minister's birthday, in breach of anti-COVID rules .