‘Always paid my taxes!’ Zahawi fires back and dubs allegations ‘smear’ in leadership bid

GMB: Nadhim Zahawi preparing leadership bid from Boris Johnson

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Ex-Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi entered the race to become Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister just days after he penned a letter in which he told Boris Johnson his position was “not sustainable”. However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has faced a challenging start to the leadership contest after reports claimed a “flag” was raised by officials before Mr Zahawi succeeded fellow leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak in Number 11.

According to the Observer, civil servants in the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team alerted the Prime Minister to an HM Revenue and Customs “flag” over Mr Zahawi before his appointment.

A source claimed such matters could “stop someone receiving an MBE or OBE” and even claimed the “idea he could be Chancellor or even Prime Minister is unbelievable”.

The Independent has separately reported that the Brexit-backing Stratford-upon-Avon MP was being “secretly investigated” by the National Crime Agency.

Responding to the allegations, Mr Zahawi told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “So I was clearly being smeared.

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“I was being told that the Serious Fraud Office, that the National Crime Agency, that HMRC are looking into me.”

He added: “I was not aware of this, I have always paid my taxes, I have declared my taxes in the UK.”

Mr Zahawi also vowed to answer any questions which HMRC have about his tax situation.

The Bagdad-born MP, who co-founded polling company YouGov in 2000, also said: “I will go further: I am going to make a commitment today that if I am Prime Minister I am going to publish my accounts annually.”

Mr Zahawi joins a total of 11 MPs standing to succeed Mr Johnson in Number 10.

Mr Sunak shot out of the blocks after releasing a slick three-minute video which has been viewed over 8.5million times.

However, the ex-Chancellor has faced a setback after a dossier was released tearing into his “big tax and big spend” record.

Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt also used a video to kickstart her campaign.

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Despite claiming “it needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship”, Ms Mordaunt’s clip drew attention after British Paralympian champion Jonnie Peacock asked to be removed from the footage.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also considered a serious contender after she launched her bid last night on a low tax platform.

Tonbridge & Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, recently-appointed Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, ex-Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, Attorney General Suella Braverman, former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Gillingham & Rainham MP Rehman Chishti have also entered the race.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will reportedly decide whether she will run for Conservative leader tomorrow and is in talks with the ERG about standing as the “authentic” Brexiteer after joining the Vote Leave campaign as one of the so-called ‘Gang of Six’ in 2016.

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