UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ordered an investigation into Conservative Party leader Nadim Zahawi, who is facing growing calls for his resignation after paying a fine to settle a multi-million pound tax dispute.
Mr Zahawi, who is sitting in the Sanak cabinet, used Gibraltar-registered offshore firm Balshore Investments to hold a stake in the polling firm YouGov, which he co-founded, to dodge taxes, British media said. has come under pressure since its claim.
The former prime minister admitted on Saturday that he paid the HM Revenue and Customs fine to settle the dispute, but claimed his tax error was “negligent and unintentional”.
Sunak said on Monday it had asked new ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus to assess whether Zahawi had violated the ministerial order.
But the prime minister said Mr Zahawi, whose position Labor said it “cannot support”, will remain in office pending the investigation.
“Honesty and Accountability”
Speaking to reporters during a visit to a hospital in Northamptonshire, Sunak said:
“That is why I have asked our independent advisors to find out all the facts, investigate the matter fully, clarify all the facts, and advise me on compliance with Nadim Zahawi’s ministerial decree. bottom.
“I am pleased that Nadim Zahawi agreed with that approach and agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation.”
Sunak has distanced himself from the allegations surrounding Zahawi, whom he appointed chairman in October.
“The questions being asked relate to before I became prime minister. he said.
Asked if Zahawi should not step down during the investigation, Sunak said, “As is a long-standing practice, he will continue to do his part.”
Snack has previously defended Zahawi against the tax allegations, and when questioned by the prime minister on Wednesday, Zahawi said: “We have already fully addressed this issue and there is nothing I can add.”
However, Downing Street suggested on Monday that Sunak was unaware last week that Zahawi had paid the penalty.
An official spokesman for the prime minister said Sunak had confidence in Zahawi as Conservative Party chairman and hoped the investigation into him would be completed “as soon as possible”.
The spokesperson was unable to provide a timeline for the end of the investigation and acknowledged that it was up to Sunak if he wanted to challenge that conclusion.
“The Prime Minister remains the final arbiter of the Code,” said a spokesperson.
‘Strong failure of leadership’
In a statement, Zahawi said: I look forward to explaining the facts of this matter to Sir Laurie Magnus and his team.
“I am confident that I have acted appropriately throughout and look forward to answering any specific questions in a formal manner to Lord Raleigh.
“In order to ensure the independence of this process, I will continue my duties as Chairman of the Conservative Union Party, so please understand that it is inappropriate to discuss this issue further.”
But the main opposition Labor Party has repeatedly called for Mr Zahawi to be sacked.
Labor leader Sir Kea Sturmer told reporters: The very idea that he could discuss and negotiate his tax matters with the agency he was supposed to run, everyone knows it’s wrong.
“He clearly has no intention of stepping down, so the Prime Minister needs to show leadership.
“Well, if that word means anything, the Prime Minister should fire him, fire him today, and show leadership. Because I think it’s more evidence of how weak you are.”
Sturmer said it would be a “grave leadership failure” not to dismiss Zahawi, adding: “If this were anyone on my team, I would dismiss them.”
Sir Craig Oliver, former Downing Street communications chief, said Zahawi was “hanging by a thread”.
“I think he’s got a serious problem. He can’t be Conservative chairman and go out and face the media,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The problem with Nadim Zahawi at the moment is that not everything is going well. Or I haven’t given an answer that I feel comfortable with yet.”
PA Media contributed to this report.