British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday, 29 January, sacked one of his Cabinet ministers and Conservative Party chairman, Nadhim Zahawi after he was found to have been in serious breach of the Ministerial Code.
What happened? Zahawi, who was a minister without portfolio as the chief of the governing Tory party, had faced fierce pressure in recent days to quit over questions about his finances after it emerged that he had agreed a penalty settlement with His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) department.
What did Rishi Sunak say? Apart from ordering an independent investigation into the Iraqi-born former Chancellor's tax affairs, Sunak said in his letter 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."
Released by Downing Street, the letter added:
"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."
What had Zahawi said? He had earlier welcomed the investigation and looked forward to "explaining the facts of this issue" to Sir Laurie Magnus – the UK Prime Minister's Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests.
The minister had insisted he "acted properly throughout" and any tax error was due to being “careless” and not deliberate.
What did the investigation report say? In the report, dated 29 January, Magnus noted: "Given the nature of the investigation by HMRC, which started prior to his appointment as secretary of state for education on 15 September 2021, I consider that by failing to declare HMRC's ongoing investigation before July 2022 – despite the ministerial declaration of interests form including specific prompts on tax affairs and HMRC investigations and disputes – Mr Zahawi failed to meet the requirement to declare any interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict."