Former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi ‘pays millions to settle tax row’ after investigation

Former Conservative chancellor Nadhim Zahawi is said to have agreed to pay HMRC several million pounds in tax following an investigation into his financial affairs that was first revealed by The Independent last year.


The Tory chair has agreed to pay a seven-figure sum to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to settle a tax dispute, according to reports. Labour says there are now “serious questions to answer” for Mr Zahawi and the prime minister.

The Independent Reported in July that HMRC officials were examining the tax affairs of the senior Tory figure after an inquiry was launched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in 2020.

This is how The Independent reported the investigation at the time (The Independent)

In summer last year, when Mr Zahawi was chancellor and while he was running for the Tory leadership, a senior Whitehall source confirmed that the tax matter being investigated by HMRC was “unresolved”.

The initial NCA inquiry was codenamed Operation Catalufa and is understood to have involved the agency’s International Corruption Unit.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mr Zahawi, who said he had known nothing about the NCA investigation before being contacted by The Independent.

The Tory chair gave HMRC a “seven-figure” sum to settle a tax row related to Gibraltar-registered Balshore Investments – used to hold shares in the YouGov polling company he co-founded – according to The Sun on Sunday.

A spokesperson for Mr Zahawi did not deny that the tax bill amounted to several million, and told The Independent: “As he has previously stated, Mr Zahawi’s taxes are properly declared and paid in the UK. He is proud to have built a British business that has become successful around the world.”

The senior Tory claimed to be the victim of a “smear” campaign after details of the tax investigation were revealed, but vowed to “answer any questions that HMRC has of me”.

Labour chair Anneliese Dodds said there are “serious questions to answer” for both Mr Zahawi and Rishi Sunak.

“Why did Nadhim Zahawi claim last summer that he had paid his taxes in full, and that he wasn’t aware of an investigation?” she asked. “When was he made aware of an investigation? Was the prime minister aware of an investigation when he appointed Nadhim Zahawi to the cabinet?

“Finally, why did Nadhim Zahawi claim he was not a beneficiary of his family trust – Balshore Investments – when records show that the money he owed YouGov was paid from the trust?

“Not for the first time, Rishi Sunak’s judgement has been called into serious question. The question remains: is he strong enough to sack Nadhim Zahawi?”

Mr Zahawi vowed to publish his tax returns if he won the Tory leadership contest and became prime minister, before being eliminated in the first round of voting and throwing his weight behind Liz Truss.

The Tory chair initially backed Boris Johnson for the leadership when Ms Truss resigned in October, but later switched his support to Mr Sunak.

The 55-year-old was born in Iraq and came to the UK as a child when his Kurdish family fled Saddam Hussein’s regime, before becoming the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010.

Mr Zahawi made his fortune with online polling company YouGov and was also chief executive of Gulf Keystone Petroleum until 2018.

A spokesperson for HMRC said: “We cannot comment on identifiable taxpayers.”

Boris Johnson embroiled in fresh row over finances amid Tory leadership comeback plan

Boris Johnson has been urged to come clean about his financial affairs and end his Conservative leadership ambitions, as the former prime minister became embroiled in a fresh row over money.

Adam Forrest

The prime minister is thought to have secured an £800,000 line of credit while he was at No 10, backed by a millionaire relative who was suggested for a top role at a quango.

Canadian businessman Sam Blyth agreed to guarantee the huge credit facility for his distant cousin in December 2020 before it was taken out in February 2021, a newspaper report claimed.

Labour condemned the lack of transparency around the “alleged murky financial arrangements”, calling on No 10 to come clean about who exactly Mr Johnson had received money and other benefits from when he was PM.

Tory MPs said the latest questions about Mr Johnson’s finances, coming soon after damning new Partygate claims, showed exactly why he was not a “suitable character” to be prime minister.

Asked about the huge £800,000 line of credit, former Tory minister Caroline Nokes said there was no way he could return. “Boris was a particular politician for a particular time … but now is not his time. We need sensible, grown-up politicians,” she told BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

“It should help kill off any chance he has of coming back,” one backbencher told The Independent. “He wasn’t a suitable character to be PM. The stories about Partygate and his finances would keep on coming if he tried to come back.”

Another Sunak-backing Tory MP said the huge line of credit Mr Johnson was given at No 10 “reminds us why so many people had concerns about him as leader”.

They added: “But some MPs just don’t care because he’s such a unique character. You still can’t rule out a comeback push, because there are a hardcore group who think we did the wrong thing getting rid of him.”

Natwest bank chairman Sir Howard Davies also criticised Mr Johnson, suggesting that the markets would react very badly to any attempted comeback. “Running the country is not the same as running his own finances, where it seems there are mysterious people prepared to fill in any budget gap,” he told the BBC.

The Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team were said to have approved the £800,000 credit arrangement in December 2020 after Mr Johnson asked for the advice of cabinet secretary Simon Case, the Sunday Times reported.

Mr Johnson’s Canadian cousin, the guarantor of the credit line, was considered for a position as chief executive of the British Council, a non-departmental public body when the guarantor arrangements were being put into place, according to the newspaper.

But Mr Case and Cabinet Office officials are said to have been unaware of Mr Blyth’s application for the quango, having been assured that there were no conflicts of interest. And Mr Johnson insisted he was not aware of Mr Blyth’s appearance on a recommended list for the British Council job.

A spokesman for the former PM said: “Boris Johnson did not in any way assist with, and was unaware of, any application by Sam Blyth, formal or informal, to serve in any position whatever with the British Council, and neither was anybody in No 10 who was acting on his behalf.”

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mr Blyth, said to be a friend of Mr Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson. The Canadian told the Sunday Times: “I am aware of the statement Boris Johnson is making and can confirm the accuracy of his account.”

The former PM’s wife Carrie Johnson is believed to have made free use of Mr Blyth’s villa in the Dominican Republic in early 2022, before Mr Johnson and the whole family holidayed there in October.

Mr Johnson has argued that the use of the Dominican Republic villa did not need to be registered because its free use came from a family member providing a personal benefit. “All Boris Johnson’s financial interests are and were properly declared,” said a spokesperson.

Labour party chair Anneliese Dodds said: “Boris Johnson was never fit for office. These alleged murky financial arrangements only further confirm this fact. This raises the question of why this arrangement was not publicly declared.”

She added: “The public have a right to know when sizeable gifts and loans are made to leaders to avoid any suggestion of inappropriate influence. Will No10 or the Conservative Party confirm just who Johnson received money from when he was in No10, why this was not properly declared, and what these wealthy individuals were offered in return?”

The latest revelations come after The Independent revealed a bitter split between warring Tories over whether Mr Johnson should be restored as leader given his history of scandal.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said: “It’s clear as day he’s filling up his coffers and plotting a comeback. This disgraced prime minister should not be granted one. Johnson must publicly rule out a comeback.”

Analysis by The Independent shows that Mr Johnson has raked in than £2.6m in earnings, donations and benefits in kind in the past year alone.

The total includes outside earnings of just over £1.3m in the past 12 months, as the former PM entered the speaking circuit after leaving No 10 in September.

Mr Johnson has also received just £1.2m in donations and hospitality, gifts and benefits in kind – including a £1m donation from Brexiteer businessman Christopher Harbourne and accommodation worth just over £60,000 from Lord Bamford and Lady Bamford.

It also emerged that Mr Johnson put a dinner costing more than £4,000 on a government credit card while with staff in New York for a UN General Assembly meeting in September 2021.

The bill for £4,445.07 for the meal at Smith & Wollensky’s enjoyed by Mr Johnson and his entourage emerged in a question posed by Labour. “While families are sick with worry struggling to make ends meet, this waste of public money is obscene,” said deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner.

Foreign Office minister David Rutley said: “Expenditure was subject to normal FCDO controls and an appropriate use of public money.”

Ex-MP Who Quit Over Porn-Watching Scandal Wants To Stand At The Next Election

A former Tory MP [Neil Parish] who quit after watching porn in the House of Commons has said he wants to stand again at the next general election.

(Neil has been floating this idea, even toying with standing as an independent at the by-election for his own seat, but so far hasn’t “made a commitment”.)

Owl’s message: Go ahead Neil and split the Tory vote but remember that by the next general election you will be very much “yesterday’s man”!

Richard Foord is setting an example of how an MP should care for his constituency, something few of us have ever experienced in Toryland.

Alexandra Rogers 

Neil Parish, who resigned his Devonshire seat last summer, said there was still “so much unfinished business” following his departure from parliament.

Parish, who represented Honiton and Tiverton, said that the first time he watched porn online had been accidental as he searched for tractors online.

But he admitted that on another occasion he had deliberately watched the material while waiting to vote in the Chamber.

His actions cost him his political career and triggered a by-election in the seat, which the Lib Dems won with a 30% swing.

Parish said after the result: “It’s a shame that I had to make such a terrible mistake and go in the way I had to go.”

Speaking to Times Radio, Parish said today that despite the nature of his exit, he was hoping to make a political comeback.

He told presenters Kate McCann and Adam Boulton: “At the moment I just don’t want to quite leave it.

“When you leave so suddenly like I had to, there is so much unfinished business. Therefore at the moment I don’t really want to leave it there… the seat that comes very close to my farm is the Tiverton and West Somerset seat.

“I would very much consider standing there at the next general election.”

And asked whether he would considering running as an independent and not the the Conservative Party, Parish said: “I shall offer my services to the [Conservative] Party … whether the party will have me or not is another matter.

“Then I have the option of also standing as an independent…there’s a certain draw for me actually to have a shot as an independent.”

Parish was just one of a number of Tory MPs to lose the party whip over their conduct.

Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, was suspended from the Conservative Party on Wednesday after he referred to the Holocaust in a debate about Covid vaccines.

The following day, Bridgen, who now sits as an independent MP in the Commons, apologised for causing offence and released a video denying he was racist.

There are currently 15 independent MPs sitting in parliament.

Tory donor’s firm behind PPE delivery now to be paid millions to burn it

Nice “win win” for somebody – Owl

A company founded by a top Conservative Party donor that was paid £11m to deliver PPE kits during the pandemic will now be paid millions more to destroy them, it has been reported.

Maroosha Muzaffar

Clipper Logistics, founded by Steve Parkin, will receive £4.5m to burn PPE including gowns, and surgical gloves that did not meet NHS standards, sparking criticism from opposition parties over alleged contract cronyism in the country.

Two years ago, Clipper Logistics, one of the UK’s leading storage and delivery groups, received £11m of taxpayer money to deliver PPE kits, among £3.5bn-worth of emergency Covid contracts that went to Tory-linked firms, according to Labour.

The manner in which the government fast-tracked applications for Covid contracts from suppliers with connections to ministers and officials has since been ruled unlawful by the High Court.

Clipper Logistics has been handed a contract to incinerate gowns, goggles and gloves that are among an estimated £4bn worth of PPE gear deemed ineffective, according to the Mirror.

Mr Parkin, 62, is no longer involved in the running of Clipper Logistics after it was acquired by US logistics giant GXO in a deal worth almost £1bn, but he remains a shareholder. He has reportedly donated £730,000 to the Conservatives since 2017.

This arrangement has sparked outrage among opposition parties. Labour’s Angela Rayner demanded: “Ministers must explain this.”

Ms Rayner said: “The Tories’ conveyor belt of sleaze and incompetence has come full circle. They handed millions to a donor’s firm with no experience of delivering PPE, then forked out millions more for the exact same firm to incinerate it.

“Taxpayers’ cash is going up in flames as the government’s bonfire of useless PPE grows. Ministers must come clean about these grubby deals and explain how a Tory donor’s company came to be awarded millions on millions for this fiasco.”

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: “The public deserves to know the full details of how this Conservative-affiliated company landed these contracts. We need clarity, not more cronyism and cover-ups.

“Conservative ministers wasted billions on dodgy PPE contracts and now are spending millions more destroying it. Another demonstration of how out of touch this government really is.”

Brownfield land for 1.2 million homes lying dormant, our report shows – CPRE

As the affordable housing crisis deepens, our 2022 state of brownfield report has found – yet again – that the number of new homes that could be built on brownfield land remains high. In fact, it has reached record levels, with more than half a million homes with planning permission waiting to be built.

Our report looked at local councils’ registers of brownfield land and found that over 1.2 million homes could be built on 23,000 sites covering more than 27,000 hectares of previously developed land. Just 45% of available housing units have been granted planning permission and 550,000 homes with planning permission are still awaiting development. Read the report

Brownfield still underused

The data also shows clear differences between regions. On the whole, the former industrial heartlands, which are most in need of levelling up, are least likely to have planning permission to redevelop brownfield land. Compared with the national average of 45%, the proportion of available housing units with planning permission is: 33% in the north west, 36% in the West Midlands and 40% in Yorkshire and the Humber.

There is still a huge amount of land that can be recycled in our major cities. London boroughs have two of the top three totals of highest brownfield land with housing capacity and Birmingham is in second place. Using that land would take the pressure off the Green Belt around those cities.

CPRE’s latest state of brownfield report calls for a range of measures to protect green fields, farmland and countryside, while boosting the development of social and truly affordable homes in areas where it is most needed. Previous research has shown that development of the highest quality farmland has soared 1,000-fold in 10 years – while brownfield sites wait for regeneration. Meanwhile, the demand for social housing is growing six times faster than the rate of supply in rural areas. At current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation would take over 120 years to clear.

A broken system

Tom Fyans, interim chief executive of CPRE said:

‘You know the system is broken when hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and families are on social housing waiting lists, many in rural areas. Meanwhile, across the country tens of thousands of hectares of prime brownfield sites are sitting there waiting to be redeveloped.

‘There have been promising commitments by the government to incentivise brownfield development, tackle land banking and clamp down on short term lets distorting the rental market. But the scale of the challenge requires so much more. There’s no way to fix an overheated, undersupplied housing market without a new generation of social or truly affordable housing.

‘The only solution is a commitment to building hundreds of thousands of new homes available at social rents or sold at affordable prices linked to local wages. Investing in brownfield regeneration would have a transformative effect. Done with consideration, such developments breathe new life into communities while also building the homes local people actually need alongside existing infrastructure such as public transport, schools and shops.’

A ‘clear prioritisation’ of brownfield

Recent changes to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, including emphasising brownfield over greenfield, are welcome but vague. CPRE is calling for broad amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework, which is due for review in 2023, to include a clear prioritisation of brownfield development over greenfield sites. Among the recommendations are:

  • Only allowing greenfield developments when they are primarily affordable housing for local needs, or when as much use as possible is already being made of brownfield land.
  • The New Homes Bonus should be reformed so it is only paid out to support either development of brownfield land and/or additional affordable homes.
  • The Infrastructure Levy should be set at a much higher rate on greenfield land to reflect the high costs of greenfield development to local communities.
  • Provide local communities with stronger mechanisms to bring brownfield land forward as a source of land supply, such as increased compulsory purchase powers.

Read the report