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Sunak opens an investigation into his wife’s leaked tax affairs

Rishi Sunak has ordered an internal probe into how his wife Akshata Murty’s “non-Dom” status leaked to a newspaper as Britain’s ailing British Chancellor fights to restore his political career.

Sunak’s staff said he had ordered the Cabinet Office and Treasury Department to conduct a full investigation into the leak, adding that revealing an individual’s tax status was a criminal offence.

But Bill Esterson, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said the British public would prefer an inquiry into “why he [the chancellor] collected taxes for ordinary people 15 times while his family got away with not paying taxes.”

Sunak this weekend moved his wife and children from their Downing Street flat to their family home in west London amid media frenzy over their tax affairs.

The 41-year-old chancellor, who made his own fortune as an investment banker and hedge fund manager, was until last week the bookies’ favorite to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

But now he has been caught in a political storm since Wednesday, when it was first reported that Murty was enjoying non-resident taxpayer status. Sunak has defended his wife, branding criticism of her tax regime “uncomfortable slander”.

Murty owns shares in Indian IT company Infosys, founded by her father, valued at an estimated £700million.

On Friday, she announced she would be changing her tax rules and rescinding her non-dom status because she didn’t want to offer her husband a “distraction.”

Kit Malthouse, Minister of Police, narrated Sky news on Sunday morning that the Chancellor’s wife had paid British taxes on her British income. “She has accepted that there is concern about the situation and she has made efforts to rectify that,” he said.

Malthouse said Murty was a “non-combatant” in British politics and said it was “regrettable” that she had been “drawn into the political fray”.

But the Liberal Democrats said they had drafted legislation to force all government ministers to disclose whether they or their spouses claim non-domiciled status or have interests in foreign tax havens.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid also admitted on Sunday that as an investment banker – before entering politics – he had non-dom status and paid no taxes in the UK for six years from 2000 to 2006.

Javid, who was chancellor before Sunak, said he wanted to be open about his former tax status amid increased public interest in the issue. “My career before politics was in international finance. For almost two decades, I traveled the world constantly for work,” he said.

Yvette Cooper, the opposition Labor party’s shadow home secretary, said it was “unfair” that Murty had non-dom status. “Ethics are important,” she said Sky news. But Cooper refused to say whether Labor would retain its policy from the 2019 election to ban non-resident status.

It also came to light that Sunak, who previously studied and worked in the US and owns a £5million flat in California with his wife, held an American green card until last October.

Malthouse said that Sunak’s retention of the US green card was simply a “hangover” from his time in America.

Labor referred to US Citizenship and Immigration Services rules that say green card holders should not be “employed by a foreign government” or “vote in foreign elections.”

But the Chancellor’s spokeswoman said all laws and rules had been followed and full taxes had been paid where required as long as he held his green card.

“Rishi Sunak had a green card while living and working in the US. Under US law, just because you have a green card, you are not deemed to be a US resident,” she said.

The spokeswoman said Sunak continued to use his green card for travel purposes, but on his first US trip as chancellor, he discussed “the appropriate course of action” with American authorities and returned the card.

https://www.ft.com/content/4c225e8d-edcf-4e09-a69f-10044837ed34 Sunak opens an investigation into his wife’s leaked tax affairs

Adam Bradshaw

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