Sunak fights for job after referring himself to sleaze watchdog over wife's tax affairs

10 April 2022, 23:06 | Updated: 11 April 2022, 11:29

Rishi Sunak has written to Boris Johnson over his ministerial declarations
Rishi Sunak has written to Boris Johnson over his ministerial declarations. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Rishi Sunak has written to the Prime Minister to ask for an investigation to be launched into his financial affairs in a bid to clear his name as his family face backlash over his wife's non-dom tax status.

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The chancellor asked Boris Johnson to refer him to the Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests to determine whether all his financial interests were "properly declared".

The Minister said his "overriding concern" was to retain public confidence in his actions and claims he had "always followed the rules" and hoped the review would "provide further clarity".

Mr Sunak also ordered a Whitehall inquiry into who leaked details of his wife Ms Murty's tax status to the media triggering a furious political outcry.

The probe into his financial declarations, will be led by Lord Geidt, who previously cleared Mr Johnson of wrongdoing over the £112,000 refurbishment of the Downing Street flat.

Read more: Inquiry into how Sunak's wife's tax status leaked as 'he hunts Labour-backing official'

But the move was ridiculed by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner who joked on Twitter: "Let's just hope this doesn't take as long as the publication of Sue Gray's report."

Labour also asked for an investigation into a "series of troubling revelations regarding the tax status and business connections of the chancellor and his household".

Read more: Sunak's millionaire non-dom wife in tax U-turn as Chancellor faces fierce backlash

Akshata Murty’s non-domicile status triggered a controversy with critics considering her arrangement inappropriate, especially with her husband being in charge of public finances.

In the wake of outrage aimed at her, she agreed to pay UK taxes on her overseas income - but now a Whitehall probe into how her situation was made public through the media is under way.

The Sunday Times said Mr Sunak's team believes a Labour supporter who works in Government is behind it - dubbing him "red throat", a Watergate whistleblower-style moniker.

Removals vans were spotted at Number 11 on Saturday as the family packed up their belongings and headed for their newly-refurbished, luxury pad in Kensington.

The Chancellor is expected to split his evenings between the Downing Street flat and their family home, but continue to work from Number 11, according to The Mirror.

The change of residence is an unusual precedent for the Chancellor to make and has raised questions over Mr Sunak's long term future in the ministerial position.

The change of residence is an unusual precedent for the Chancellor to make and has raised questions over Mr Sunak's long term future in the ministerial position.

One source said however they had always intended to spend more time in their west London home as their elder daughter, Krishna, entered her final term of primary school before moving on to secondary school.

A close friends of the Chancellor told the Daily Mail that Mr Sunak is bruised by the row but determined it will not derail his political career.

Read more: Chancellor Rishi Sunak admits he held US green card until last year as tax row deepens

The move comes after the family faced public backlash as it was revealed Mr Sunak held on to his Green Card as a 'resident' of the United Sates for more than a year after becoming Chancellor and the UK discovered Akshata Murthy enjoyed non-dom tax status.

In a dramatic U-turn, less than 48 hours after her non-domicile status was revealed, Ms Murty volunteered to pay UK income tax on her worldwide income, despite not being required by law to do so.

She said she was aware that her tax arrangements did not seem compatible with "the British sense of fairness" in a statement released on Friday evening. She will retain her Indian citizenship and her non-domicile status.

Ms Murty said it has become clear that "many do not feel it is compatible" with her husband's role as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Read more: Rishi Sunak's wife a 'legitimate' target over non-dom tax status, says Jess Phillips

The row over Rishi Sunak and his family's tax situation has shown how the Chancellor and his wife are in a "completely different universe in financial terms" from ordinary people left struggling by the cost-of-living crisis, Nicola Sturgeon said.

The Scottish First Minister said revelations about his wife's finances had left Mr Sunak in a "very, very difficult" position.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are now pressing for the millionairess to pay the back taxes she had saved through not having to pay UK taxes on her overseas income.

It has been estimated that Ms Murty, a fashion designer and the daughter of an Indian billionaire, potentially saved up to £20 million in UK tax through her non-domiciled status.

She is reported to hold a 0.91% stake in Infosys, an IT business founded by her father, and has received £11.6 million in dividends from the Indian firm in the past year.