Ethics inquiry acquits UK Treasury chief of wife’s tax status

LONDON (AP) — A British government ethics adviser on Wednesday cleared Treasury chief Rishi Sunak of wrongdoing over his wife’s tax affairs and her possession of a U.S. permanent resident card.

Sunak asked Christopher Geidt to investigate possible breaches of ministerial conduct after revelations that Akshata Murty, Sunak’s wife, did not pay UK overseas income tax and that Sunak held a green card, which requires holders to file U.S. tax returns. Sunak gave up his green card last year, two years after he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.

There were no allegations of breaches of the law, but critics said the arrangements were inappropriate for the tax and economics chief at a time when Britain is facing a crisis of the cost of living fueled by soaring energy prices.

Geidt, the adviser for ministers’ interests, found two instances where Murty’s tax status “could have given rise to a conflict of interest” for Sunak, but said that in both instances Sunak handled them properly and openly. He also concluded that there was no “inherent conflict of interest” in Sunak holding a green card.

Geidt said Sunak had been “diligent in fulfilling his obligations and engaging in this investigation.”

Murty owns a stake in Infosys, an Indian IT company founded by his billionaire father, which has received more than 50 million pounds ($63 million) in UK public sector contracts since 2015. Geidt said the stake was “ properly declared” and that the company did not hold any Treasury contracts during Sunak’s tenure.

Sunak, a 41-year-old former hedge fund manager, had been seen as a likely successor to Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, until financial revelations raised questions about his judgment and damaged his security image. He was also fined by police, along with Johnson and around 50 others, for attending a party at the Prime Minister’s Office in 2020 which broke coronavirus lockdown rules at the time.

Geidt reports directly to the Prime Minister and has been accused of being soft on senior officials in his investigations. Last year, he allowed Johnson to break cabinet code by failing to disclose that a Conservative Party donor had funded an expensive renovation of the prime minister’s official residence.

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