LONDON ( Associated Press) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday fired the chair of his Conservative Party over a “serious breach” of ministerial rules.
Pressure was mounting to oust Nadim Zahawi, amid allegations that he had to settle several million dollars in unpaid taxes during his time in charge of the country’s Treasury.
In a letter to Zahai, Sunak wrote that he was compelled to act after promising at the start of his term that his government would have “integrity, professionalism and accountability at all levels.”
Although Zahavi, the founder of the polling website YouGov, acknowledged the dispute with the tax authorities, he claimed his error was “negligent and not intentional”.
According to British media, the settlement with tax authorities was worth about 5 million pounds ($6.2 million).
Zahavi led the British Treasury between July and September 2022 in the final months of Boris Johnson’s term as prime minister.
Sunak said he had made his decision following an investigation into the party president’s finances by the government’s independent standards consultant.
The report by Laurie Magnus concluded that Zahawi had shown “inadequate regard” to ministerial-level standards and sought to be “honest, open and an exemplary leader in his own conduct” in public life.
The British Treasury’s investigation focused on the sale of YouGov’s shares worth around 27 million pounds ($33.4 million).
The investigation began in April 2021, but Zahavi did not declare them until more than a year later when he was appointed head of the Treasury.
Magnus’ report determined that it should have been clear from the outset that the matter was serious.
In a statement on Sunday, Zahavi said it has been a privilege to serve in different governments and assured the prime minister of his continued support.
He made no reference to the ethics investigation, although he said he was concerned about the conduct of some media in recent weeks and that some media coverage did not reflect a “legitimate investigation by public officials”.
Zahawi, 55, was vaccines minister in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic before serving nine months as education minister.