The Prime Minister of the UK, Rishi Sunak, has ordered an investigation on the Conservative Party chairman, Nadhim Zahawi after he refused to resign. Sunak announced that Laurie Magnus, the independent ethics adviser, will investigate Zahawi’s taxes.
“Integrity and accountability is really important to me, including in this case there are questions that need answering and that is why I have asked our independent adviser to get to the bottom of everything, to investigate the matter fully and establish all the facts and provide advice to me on Nadhim Zahawi’s compliance with the ministerial code,” announced Sunak.
On Saturday, Zahawi announced that he had agreed to pay the penalty to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over an unpaid £5m tax bill related to sales of YouGov shares. The tax problem dates to when he served as the UK Chancellor in charge of taxes under Boris Johnson. Zahawi has described the tax error as “careless” but “not deliberate.”
Labour Leader Keir Starmer said that Prime Minister Sunak knows that Zahawi’s position as Chair of the Conservative Party is “untenable.”
The tax dispute comes across as hypocritical, as Zahawi has been part of a government that has campaigned for taxes to be paid in full and on time. In the past, Zahawi also served as chancellor responsible for overseeing the UK’s tax system.
On Wednesday, Anneliese Dodds, the chair of the Labour party, wrote to Sunak requesting an investigation of Zahawi’s tax affairs if he does not expose the details of why he paid a multi-million penalty to HMRC.
“If answers to these questions have not been provided, can you confirm that a full cabinet inquiry will take place to determine if Mr Zahawi has misled the British public and broken the ministerial code? And if that inquiry finds that he did, will you remove him from post immediately?” wrote Dodds.
According to Sunak, Zahawi agreed to “fully co-operate” with the investigation.
The Labour Party is calling on Sunak to be transparent about how much he knew about Zahawi’s tax frauds. Labour also requested access to the chairman’s corresponded with HRMC – “so we can get the full picture.”
Labour MP Alex Sobel asked if Sunak knew Zahawi’s tax mistakes once he appointed the Tory chairman to his cabinet.
“Will the prime minister demand accountability from his cabinet members about their tax affairs?” Sobel asked.
The Liberal Democrats Deputy Leader, Daisy Cooper, declared, “The public deserves full transparency, not another Conservative cover-up. Anything less would make a mockery of Sunak’s promise to govern with integrity.”
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