Britain’s Rishi Sunak cleared of breaching ministerial code over wife’s tax status

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has been cleared of breaching the Ministerial Code by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s standards adviser after reviewing his and his family’s tax affairs.

Ministerial adviser on interests, Lord Christopher Geidt, also ruled in favor of Mr Sunak on the conflict of interest allegations regarding the chancellor having held a US permanent resident card.

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

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

But he found in the first case that the issue had been correctly reported, and in the second, Mr Sunak assured that a change in cash for some non-domiciled people did not affect his wife.

“I report that the requirements of the Ministerial Code have been met by the Chancellor and that he has been diligent in fulfilling his obligations and engaging in this investigation,” Mr Geidt told Mr Johnson.

“To reach these judgments, I limit myself to the question of conflicts of interest and the requirements of the ministerial code.

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

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

Mr Geidt said he had asked the Treasury to research any policies that affected cardholders and Mr Sunak’s department replied “no such evidence”.

He was confident there was no conflict of interest over Mr Sunak’s blind investment trust after the chancellor assured he had no ‘live knowledge’ of the contents.

Mr Geidt was satisfied that Ms Murty’s stake in Infosys, an Indian IT company founded by her father, was “correctly declared” and that she did not hold any Treasury contracts during her husband’s tenure.

Public records show that Infosys has received more than £50m ($63m) in UK public sector contracts since 2015.

This month, Mr Johnson 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 Labor-leaning civil servant or rivals in Downing Street might have been behind the leak of the confidential information.

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

He was asked how he could have ‘the understanding and empathy for what it’s like to struggle’ by someone who said he ‘can’t imagine what it’s like to live a life in your very privileged financial situation”.

Mr Sunak said he hoped people ‘could judge me on my actions’ as he acknowledged he was in a ‘privileged position’ but stressed his family had emigrated 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 tax on all of her worldwide earnings.

She reportedly owns a 0.91% stake in Infosys and received £11.6 million ($14.5 million) in dividends from the Indian company over the past year.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty in the stands during the second England-India Test match at Lord's, London on August 12, 2021. PA

“From the start, it was clear that this report would be pure whitewash. The government announced the outcome of this investigation before it had even started,” said Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labor Party.

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

“We now know that the Government was fully aware of the Chancellor’s tax avoidance tactics, but failed to inform the public or take action.”

Updated: April 27, 2022, 8:35 p.m.

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