Tory leadership hopeful Nadhim Zahawi was unable to say how rich he is, but insisted he and his family have never used offshore firms to avoid tax.
The Iraqi-born politician who is one of 11 candidates in the race made his comments during an interview with Sky News, as he committed to publish his tax affairs annually if he became PM.
This comes as foreign secretary Liz Truss became the latest front-runner to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative leader, with a live TV debate to be broadcast on 18 July.
Speaking to Sky News’, Zahawi said he responded to claims HMRC is investigating his tax affairs, and said he’s “clearly being smeared”.
“I was being told that the Serious Fraud Office, the National Crime Agency that HMRC are looking into me.
I’ve always declared my taxes. I paid my taxes in the UK. I will answer any questions HMRC has of me, but I will go further. I’m going to make a commitment today that if I am Prime Minister, I think the right thing to do is to publish my accounts annually.”
He categorically denied his family benefits from an offshore trust, saying his parents “live abroad” and it’s “their business”. He also said he’d never had non-domicile status.
When asked about his personal wealth, he insisted he’s been “very lucky” and “self made”, having “invested in the United Kingdom.
Responding to probes by Labour grandee Dame Margaret Hodge, he said he’s “been the beneficiary of the British dream. I am wealthy you’re absolutely right.”
When asked to disclose just how rich he was, he declined, saying “I don’t think it’s right to go into numbers, because I’ll probably get it wrong… These things move around.”
He also said he regretted attended the infamous 2018 Presidents Club event, at which there were accusations of sexual misconduct, including waitresses being groped.
Zahawi said he’s “passionate about is that we treat people properly”, including in government, and he would advice his sons not to go to such an event.
The full list of Conservative leadership candidates includes:
- Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt
- Former chancellor Rishi Sunak
- Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
- Former health secretary Sajid Javid
- Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt
- Attorney General Suella Braverman
- Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch
- Backbencher Tom Tugendhat
- Foreign Secretary Liz Truss
- Foreign Office minister Rehman Chishti