Zahawi has said the tax body ruled he had been “careless” with his declarations but hadn’t deliberately made an error to pay less tax. But Sunak’s independent adviser Laurie Magnus said that Zahawi did not declare that his tax affairs were being probed when he was briefly made finance minister last year, and failed to disclose details when Sunak appointed him to his current role.
“Following the completion of the independent adviser’s investigation, it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the ministerial code,” Sunak said in a letter to Zahawi. “As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in (the) government.”
The opposition Labour Party and some of Sunak’s own Conservative lawmakers had said Zahawi should have stood down earlier while Sunak waited for the findings of Magnus’ probe. “It’s vital that we now get answers to what Sunak knew,” Labour’s education spokesperson Bridget Phillipson said on Sunday.
Zahawi’s sacking comes as Sunak’s government trails badly in opinion polls ahead of an expected 2024 election. Magnus said the details of HMRC’s own investigation – relating to Zahawi’s co-founding in 2000 of opinion polling firm YouGov, and how many shares his father had taken to support its launch – was outside the scope of his own inquiry. But he found that Zahawi had failed to declare HMRC’s probing of affairs, or acknowledge that they were a serious matter. Zahawi had characterised reports last July over his tax affairs as “clearly smears”.
Zahawi did not correct the record until last week, when he said he’d reached a settlement with the authorities. “I consider that this delay in correcting an untrue public statement is inconsistent with the requirement for openness,” Magnus said. reuters