Prime Minister of Great Britain Rishi Altar Faced with criticism over his personal tax arrangements, Conservative Party leader Nadhim Zahavi bowed to pressure on Sunday by firing him.
Altar ordered its ethics adviser to investigate Zahavi last week after claims he paid fines as part of a £4.8 million ($5.96 million) settlement with tax officials. It was alleged that Zahavi did not declare the dispute with the tax authorities.
Zahavi was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer – Finance Minister by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July last year. He remained in the Cabinet, succeeding Johnson’s successor, Liz Truss, and Sunak, who made him party leader.
In his letter to Zahavi, Sunak said that after the investigation completed its work, “it is clear that the Code of Ministers has been seriously violated.”
“As a result, I have informed you that I have decided to remove you from your position in His Majesty’s Government.”
News of Zahavi’s multi-million pound settlement with the taxman has shocked Britons, many of whom are struggling to survive amid a cost-of-living crisis.
The opposition Labor Party said Sunak, who took office promising “integrity, professionalism and accountability at all levels”, should have fired Zahawi when the allegations were first reported this month instead of trying to buy time by launching an investigation.
Senior Labor MP Bridget Phillipson told Sky News the scandal exposed Sunak as a “weak” leader.
“There’s a foul smell around the Conservative party,” he said.
Sunak himself was also audited regarding his wife’s tax arrangements Akshata Murthy, the daughter of an Indian billionaire. Last year, Sunak and Murty appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List, which ranks the UK’s 250 richest people – the newspaper estimated their combined fortune at £730 million ($826 million).
It emerged last year that Murty had “non-domiciled” status in the UK, which meant he could legally avoid paying UK taxes on his family’s overseas earnings from the Infosys business group.
Last week, he apologized after receiving a second police fine for not wearing a seat belt while in a car. While he was chancellor, Sunak was fined by the police, along with Johnson, for taking part in quarantine-breaking parties in British government buildings.
In a letter responding to his dismissal on Sunday, Zahawi said it had been the privilege of his life to serve in successive British governments. He did not publicly refer to the results of the ethics inquiry into the tax affairs.
“I came to this country fleeing persecution and not speaking English. Here I built a successful business and held the highest positions in the government. I believe that my story will not be possible in any country in the world,” the statement reads.
Zahavi was born in Iraq to Kurdish parents and came to England 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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