It was only a matter of time.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sacked Conservative Party chairman and former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zahawi after it was revealed that, during his time as chancellor, his tax affairs were found to be seriously out of order, forcing him to pay out £5 million to His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Sunak was initially reluctant and stood by Zahawi defending him in Parliament, thus risking his own political capital.
However, a report by ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus made clear that Zahawi breached several ministerial rules and while chancellor did not disclose the tax dispute.
Zahawi first denied he was being investigated by HMRC and blamed the media for the toll its coverage had taken on his family.
While prime minister, Boris Johnson appointed him as chancellor when he was not fully paying his taxes. Back in 2000 he co-founded the polling company YouGov, later becoming a millionaire from his business ventures.
The whole Zahawi tax problem is an embarrassment for the Government and Sunak who insists his administration will adhere to the highest standards of integrity.
Sir Laurie Magnus’s report read in part: “A Minister of the Crown has a responsibility to lead by example, demonstrating not just compliance with the National Code, but being an exemplar for integrity in public life. This means upholding high standards of propriety in their conduct as citizens and being actively conscious of possible conflicts between their private interests and their ministerial responsibilities.
“I consider that Mr Zahawi in holding the high privilege of being a Minister of the Crown, has shown insufficient regard for General Principles of the Ministerial Code and the requirements in particular under the seven Principles of Public Life, to be honest, open and an exemplary leader through his own behaviour.”
Zahawi’s business affairs has always come under scrutiny and how he made vast sums of money intrigued the press. Both his wife and parents have been actors in his financial dramas.
The Labour Party Leader Sir Kier Starmer made it uncomfortable for the prime minister in Parliament, pointing out that Zahawi was unfit to hold the position of Conservative Party chairman and should never have been appointed chancellor, given his tax challenges.
Days later, Sunak had no choice but to cut Zahawi loose.
Today the Prime Minister wrote to Zahawi: “When I became prime minister last year, I pledged that the Government I lead would have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.
“This is why following new information which came to light in recent days regarding your personal financial arrangements and declarations I asked Sir Laurie Magnus, the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, to fully investigate the matter. You agreed and undertook to cooperate fully with the integrity.
“Following the completion of the Independent Adviser’s investigation – the findings of which he has shared with us both – it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code. As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty’s Government.”
In four short years, Nadhim Zahawi went from schools minister in 2018 to Chancellor then Chairman of the Conservative party – a spectacular, unequalled rise.
Now, like Icarus, he has fallen after getting too close to the sun and plummeted to the depths.
As usual, like in the Stocks and Securities Ltd scandal in Jamaica, the press cops the blame.
On being kicked out as party chairman, Nadhim Zahawi wrote: “I am concerned however about the conduct from some of the fourth estate in recent weeks. In a week when a Member of Parliament was physically assaulted, I fail to see how one headline on this issue ‘The Noose Tightens’ reflects legitimate scrutiny of public officials. I say sorry to my family for the toll this has taken on them.”
The Labour Party’s Anneliese Dodds makes the point and it is difficult to argue against that “even after it had become clear that while he was Chancellor, Mr Zahawi had been the person in charge of HMRC while he was actually negotiating with HMRC.
“I think for ordinary people looking on at this situation, people who also pay their taxes, you don’t get to negotiate with HMRC. They rightly expect far better of their government and Rishi Sunak has let people down on this.”
Zahawi was always problematic for the Conservative Party. Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed him Chancellor and placed faith in him only for him to return to Number 10 Downing Street with Zahawi and others waiting there for him, to tell him to step down as prime minister paving the way for Liz Truss.
ZAHAWI’S EARLY YEARS
Hailing from Baghdad, Iraq, Zahawi always twinned politics with money making enterprises, a recipe for trouble and a conflict of interest that eventually brought him down.
In the early years of his career, Zahawi worked closely with former leading Conservative Party operative Sir Jeffrey Archer, who became a novelist and ended up being jailed for perverting the course of justice.
Zahawi has always faced questions concerning his association with offshore investment companies and stashing money away in tax-friendly jurisdictions, allegations he has always denied.
As Chancellor, Zahawi continued to moan that the media was out to smear him and that he would sue for damage to his reputation. The media is having the last laugh now.
A sad end for a man who had aspirations to one day become British prime minister.
It is highly embarrassing to have a Conservative Party chairman whose tax affairs are way out of order, forced to pay millions of pounds to rectify the situation.
The associate editor of The Telegraph, Michael Portillo said: “This represents a terrific blow against the Government. It pains me to say this, but I think on the whole it makes Rishi look weak. I think he must have been kicking himself all week that he decided to refer this to an investigation rather than going with a decision straight away.”