British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sacked Minister Without Portfolio and Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi over a breach of the ministerial code linked to his tax disputes, Downing Street announced on Sunday (January 29th).
After an independent investigation, “it is clear that there has been a serious violation of the ministerial code”wrote the head of government in a letter published by Downing Street. “Accordingly, I inform you of my decision to remove you from your position in Her Majesty’s Government. »
By dismissing Nadhim Zahawi rather than asking him to resign, Rishi Sunak seeks to assert his authority, he who had promised when he arrived in Downing Street “integrity, professionalism and responsibility”.
Dispute with the tax authorities
Britain’s prime minister had instructed his independent ethics adviser on Monday to investigate whether Mr Zahawi, who sits in the cabinet, breached the cabinet code in connection with the multi-million pound settlement he had to pay to settle a dispute with the tax authorities. According to the BBC, he had to pay up to 5 million pounds sterling (5.7 million euros) in penalties for not having correctly declared his income, after the sale of his shares in the YouGov polling company, of which he is a co-founder
However, Mr. Zahawi had negotiated this penalty in the summer of 2022, during his short-lived stint at the Ministry of Finance in the government of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He then became, with the arrival of Mr. Sunak in Downing Street at the end of October, chairman of the Conservative party and minister without portfolio in the government.
Ethics adviser Laurie Magnus concluded that Nadhim Zahawi should have declared the tax investigation he was the subject of and should also have updated his declaration of interests once his dispute with the tax authorities has been settled.
After 13 years in power, the Conservatives have seen their reputation tarnished in recent years by conflicts of interest cases, fueling accusations of corruption from the Labor opposition, which is well ahead in the polls. A controversy erupted last year about Mr Sunak himself, when the press revealed that his wife, the wealthy Akshata Murty, enjoyed favorable tax status in the midst of an inflation crisis.