Crisis for Rishi escalates as two Tory bosses dragged into tax row

Nadhim Zahawi sacked by PM Rishi Sunak

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Two Tory bosses have been dragged into the tax dodging row, just days after party chairman Nadhim Zahawi was sacked over his tax affairs. Graham Edwards, brought in by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to run the Conservative party’s finances, was found to have used a tax avoidance scheme. Meanwhile, Conservative chief executive Stephen Massey works for a firm that encouraged high earners to reduce tax bills by funnelling cash into a film investment project.

This spells trouble for Mr Sunak, who was forced to sack the Conservative Party chair yesterday after ministerial interests adviser Sir Laurie Magnus delivered a damning verdict over his tax affairs.

This came after a fortnight of mounting pressure.

Embattled Mr Sunak today insisted he acted “pretty decisively” by sacking Mr Zahawi over the tax row – but the Prime Minister is facing intense pressure with critics arguing he should have acted sooner.

He said he followed the “right process” by waiting for the outcome of an ethics inquiry which concluded that Mr Zahawi breached the ministerial code.

The PM stressed “integrity is important to me” and promised to take “whatever steps are necessary to restore the integrity back into politics”.

Speaking during a visit to County Durham today, he said: “On the basis of those facts I was able to make a very quick decision that it was no longer appropriate for Nadhim Zahawi to continue in Government.

“It relates to things that happened well before I was Prime Minister, so unfortunately I can’t change what happened in the past.

“What I did, as soon as I knew about the situation, was appoint someone independent, looked at it, got the advice and then acted pretty decisively.”

Mr Edwards, a property tycoon who has donated £940,000 to the Conservative Party since 2018, was named as the party’s treasurer last month.

Following a dispute with HMRC, he was found to have wrongly tried to reduce the tax due on £5million he received in bonuses, the Mirror reported.

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Meanwhile, Mr Massey – who started as the Conservative Party’s chief executive in November – is still chairman of Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management.

Legal action was taken against the company by its clients in 2019 after it advised them to put their money into a film investment scheme that was targeted by the taxman, with customers claiming an HMRC crackdown left them with huge bills.

On its website, Canaccord Genuity says it helps its customers invest “in the most tax-efficient manner”.

Mr Massey has donated £343,000 to the Tories including £25,000 to Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign.

He has temporarily been handed the duties of the Conservative Party chairman after Nadhim Zahawi was sacked.

Last night, a spokesman for Mr Massey told the Mirror he had “no involvement in the advice related to this case, which arose in a company acquired by Canaccord before he was employed by the firm”.

A spokesman for Mr Edwards said: “Two decades ago Mr Edwards received a bonus and paid full tax and National Insurance on it, on the day he received it.

“The scheme mentioned was a KPMG-led tax reclaim scheme that HMRC disallowed. Mr Edwards paid all taxes properly and never received any penalty from HMRC.”

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