PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak has said there are “questions that need answering” over MP Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs.
As a result, the PM has asked his independent ethics adviser to look into the tax affairs of the Stratford MP and Conservative Party chairman.
Mr Zahawi is facing calls to resign, after it emerged he paid a penalty to HMRC over unpaid tax while he was chancellor.
On a visit to a hospital in Northamptonshire, Mr Sunak told reporters: “Integrity and accountability is really important to me and clearly in this case there are questions that need answering.
“That’s why I’ve 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.”
He added that Mr Zahawi would remain Tory Party chairman during the investigation and had agreed to “fully cooperate”.
In a statement, Mr Zahawi said he welcomed the investigation and looked forward to “explaining the facts of this issue” to Sir Laurie Magnus, the prime minister’s independent adviser on minister’s interests.
He added: “In order to ensure the independence of this process, you will understand that it would be inappropriate to discuss this issue any further, as I continue my duties as chairman of the Conservative and Unionist Party.”
Last July it was reported that an investigation had been launched into Mr Zahawi’s financial affairs – specifically whether the 55-year-old had avoided tax by using an offshore company called Baltimore Investments to hold shares in YouGov – a polling company he co-founded.
At the time, Mr Zahawi, who is reportedly worth more than £100 million, said the allegations of wrong doing were politically motivated “smears”.
Mr Zahawi previously said he was not a beneficiary of Gibraltor-based family trust, Baltimore Investments, which sold a £20 million stake in YouGov in 2018.
But records show cash he owed to YouGov was partly repaid from Balshore dividends, it is reported.
Mr Zahawi had sought to end questions about his financial dealings by releasing a statement at the weekend in which he said there had been an error in his tax affairs, which had been accepted by HMRC as having been “careless and not deliberate”.