The fact Zahawi’s response merely attacked the press shows incredibly poor judgment. When anyone is under HMRC investigation they know about it and the seriousness of such matters. Zahawi’s advisors MUST have told him several things: 1: this is not going away anytime soon. 2: this is going to be expensive in fees (he probably had insurance so no real cost there unless it was evasion which it wasn’t.) 3: you will almost certainly face a penalty which will range from X to Y as it is incredibly difficult to argue innocent error.

Since this arose out of a series of pre-planned transactions designed to avoid tax it is likely that advisors didn’t tell HMRC about the arrangements in advance for some sort of clearance. That’s always advisable when dealing with grey areas. That would be enough to stand up a charge of carelessness. It then come down to quantum and my guess is that the final settlement was a negotiated figure based on a disagreement about the underlying transfer value involved that ultimately triggered the original tax charge.

Zahawi could have avoided all of this by recusing himself from high office but chose not to do so.

Sunak is taking us for fools if he ignored advice from civil servants. He must be aware that tax arrangements involving offshore are fraught with problems. If he chose to not follow up when first informed then he’s either incredibly stupid (I doubt that) or naive (more likely) to think it wouldn’t come back to mire him in deep trouble.

Your point about Braverman is well made. As Michael Portillo (gasp!) is reported to have said: Sunak looks weak. That’s no good for either the Tories or the country. It’s death by a 1,000 cuts.

Expand full comment
Jan 29Liked by Adam Bienkov

Hi Adam, Unbelievably, the papers now have unnamed Johnson "allies" pushing for him to be made Party Chairman. Sunak won't gain any political capital by sacking Zahawi.....but surely he must be aware that appointing Johnson to any role at all would not only destabilise his party and govt, but also burn through his diminishing stock of political capital within weeks?

Expand full comment