Nadhim Zahawi’s dismissal came after an investigation into his tax affairs revealed a serious breach of the ministerial code.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sacked Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi after an independent investigation into his tax affairs revealed serious breaches of the ministerial code.
“Following the conclusion of the independent counsel’s investigation – whose findings he shared with both of us – it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the ministerial code,” Sunak said in a letter to Zahawi on Sunday.
“As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty’s government.”
Independent ethics counsel Laurie Magnus found that Zahawi was misleading when he said reports last July about his tax affairs were a “blatant blemish.”
Zahawi did not set the record straight until last week, when he said he had reached a settlement with authorities.
“I believe that this delay in correcting an untrue public statement is inconsistent with the requirement of openness,” Magnus said in a letter to Sunak.
He added that Zahawi’s behavior showed “insufficient respect” for the requirement “to be an honest, open and exemplary leader”.
“MR. Zahawi’s conduct as a minister has fallen below the high standards that, as prime minister, you rightly expect of those who serve in your government,” he said.
The tax issue relates to Zahawi’s co-founding in 2000 of the polling firm YouGov, which he said his father took a stake in to support its startup.
However, the UK tax authority disagreed with the number of shares given to Zahawi’s father when the issue was raised during his appointment as finance minister last year.
Zahawi said on Saturday that he had paid the fees and settled the matter with the tax office, which he said concluded he had made a “careless, not intentional” mistake. Zahawi reportedly handed over a late payment fine worth 5 million pounds ($6.2 million).
Sunak and his government have faced questions about the feud for several days, with pressure mounting on Zahawi to step down.
The opposition Labor Party said Sunak should have fired Zahawi immediately when the allegations emerged in news reports this month, rather than seeking to buy time by asking Magnus to investigate.
The scandal highlighted that Sunak was a “weak” prime minister, senior Labor MP Bridget Phillipson told Sky News.
“The stench of sleaze is just spreading around the Conservative Party,” she said.
Sunak himself faced questions about his family’s tax affairs after it emerged that his Indian wife Akshata Murty had enjoyed “non-domiciled” status for years, which protected her from paying UK tax on her overseas income from her family’s Infosys business group .