Sunak cleared of ethics breach

The chancellor of the exchequer earlier this month asked the adviser on ministerial standards, Christopher Geidt, to review whether he followed all the rules after revelations about his family’s financial affairs stoked political controversy…reports Asian Lite News

The government’s ethics advisor said on Wednesday he had cleared embattled finance minister Rishi Sunak of breaching ministerial codes after investigating his family’s tax affairs.

The chancellor of the exchequer earlier this month asked the adviser on ministerial standards, Christopher Geidt, to review whether he followed all the rules after revelations about his family’s financial affairs stoked political controversy.

“I advise that the requirements of the ministerial code have been adhered to by the Chancellor, and that he has been assiduous in meeting his obligations and in engaging with this investigation,” Geidt wrote.

Geidt also ruled that there was no conflict of interest in Sunak holding a US permanent resident Green Card, which he has since given up.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sunak had requested that Geidt assess his declarations of interest since he first became a minister in 2018.

A political storm erupted after it was leaked that Sunak’s wealthy Indian wife has benefited from “non-domicile” tax status in the UK, shielding her overseas income from taxes at a time when they are rising for most Britons.

After initially claiming his spouse Akshata Murty — whose father co-founded the Indian IT behemoth Infosys — was the victim of a smear campaign, the couple U-turned and vowed she would pay British taxes on all her global income.

Sunak was nevertheless accused of hypocrisy for raising taxes for Britons in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, while his own family has seen millions of pounds in Infosys dividends shielded from his own ministry.

Sunak is believed to be Britain’s richest member of parliament.

Once a leading contender to succeed Johnson as the British leader struggled with his own series of scandals, Sunak has seen his popularity plummet in recent weeks amid the cost-of-living crisis and the revelations.

Earlier this month, Sunday Mirror reported that Sunak had moved his belongings out of Downing Street.

It reported that removal vans were seen lining up to take furniture and personal items from the flat shared by Sunak and wife Akshata Murthy and move them to their newly-refurbished, luxury West London pad, said the Sunday Mirror report.

A red velvet armchair, a shelving unit and several bags and boxes were loaded onto two trucks, which arrived at Downing Street’s back gate on Saturday morning.

But the Sunday Mirror said the move was planned before Sunak’s popularity nosedived this week.

The family are making the move because their eldest daughter is about to go into her final term of primary school, the report added.

They want to be nearer to her school for the last few months before she goes to boarding school.

Previously a shoe-in to replace Boris Johnson as the next Prime Minister, Sunak’s fortunes have been on the wane since last month’s disastrous Spring Statement failed to provide help for families facing a cost of living crisis.

This week it was revealed Murthy enjoyed non-dom tax status and Sunak had held on to his Green Card as a ‘resident’ of the US for more than a year after becoming Chancellor.

It comes amid calls for partners and spouses of ministers to be banned from being non-doms and avoiding paying tax on money made outside the UK.

Earlier this month, it emerged that Murty owns a stake in Infosys. Geidt notes in his findings that the shareholding was “properly declared” and that the Indian software firm has held no UK Treasury contracts during Sunak’s time in office.

Sunak, a 41-year-old former hedge fund manager, had been seen as a likely successor to Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, until the financial revelations raised questions about his judgment and damaged his sure-footed image.

He has also been fined by police, along with Johnson and some 50 others, for attending a party in the Prime Minister’s office in 2020 that broke coronavirus lockdown rules at the time.

The Indian-origin finance minister had referred himself to Lord Christopher Geidt to investigate any alleged ministerial conduct breaches after revelations that his wife, the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, did not pay UK tax on her Indian income under her legal non-domicile tax status.

 Geidt answers directly to the UK Prime Minister, and last year he cleared Johnson of breaking the ministerial code by failing to disclose that a Conservative party donor had funded a pricey refurbishment of his official Downing Street residence.

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