Rishi Sunak cleared by PM’s standards adviser over wife’s tax status

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Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak has been cleared of breaching the ministerial code by Boris Johnson’s standards adviser after considering the tax affairs of the Chancellor and his family.

Ministerial interests adviser Lord Geidt also ruled in Mr Sunak’s favour over allegations of conflicts of interest relating to the Chancellor having held a US permanent resident card.

Mr Sunak referred himself for investigation after it emerged his wife, Akshata Murty, held non-domiciled tax status, exempting her from paying UK tax on overseas earnings.

Lord Geidt found two instances where Ms Murty’s tax status “could have given rise to a conflict of interest” for the Chancellor.

But he found in the first instance the issue was properly declared, and in the second Mr Sunak assured a Treasury change for some non-dom individuals did not affect his wife.

In advice to the Prime Minister, Lord Geidt wrote: “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.

“In reaching these judgments, I am confined to the question of conflicts of interest and the requirements of the ministerial code.

“My role does not touch on any wider question of the merits of such interests or arrangements.”

The adviser said he does not believe Mr Sunak having held a US green card “would constitute an inherent conflict of interest”.

Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

Lord Geidt said he asked the Treasury to search for any policy that would have affected holders of the card and Mr Sunak’s department responded with “no such evidence”.

He was also satisfied there is no conflict of interest over Mr Sunak’s blind investment trust after the Chancellor assured he does not have “live knowledge” of the contents.

Lord Geidt was also satisfied Ms Murty’s shareholding in Infosys, an Indian IT company founded by her father, was “properly declared” and that it held no Treasury contracts during her husband’s tenure.

Public records show Infosys received more than £50 million in UK public sector contracts since 2015.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister agreed to launch the investigation amid intense pressure on Mr Sunak over his family’s financial interests.

There had been speculation in Westminster that a Labour-sympathising civil servant or rivals in No 10 could have been behind the leaking of the confidential information.

On Wednesday, Mr Sunak insisted he does not believe allies of Mr Johnson were behind the leaks as he answered questions from users of the Mumsnet internet forum.

He was asked how he can have the “understanding and empathy about what it is like to struggle” by someone who said they “couldn’t imagine what it is like to live a life in your very privileged financial position”.

Mr Sunak said he hoped people “can judge me on my actions”, as he accepted he was in a “fortunate position” but stressed his family history of emigrating to the UK “with very little”.

During the political storm, Ms Murty, who is an Indian citizen and is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds, agreed to pay UK taxes on all her worldwide income.

She is reported to hold a 0.91% stake in Infosys and has received £11.6 million in dividends from the Indian firm in the past year.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “It was clear from the start that this report would be an utter whitewash – the Government announced the result of this inquiry before it had even started.

“This report fails to answer the most basic questions and makes a mockery of our democracy. Downing Street has lost all ethical credibility.

“Now we know that the Government was fully aware of the Chancellor’s tax-dodging tactics, but failed to inform the public or take any action.”

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