Rishi Sunak and the citizens of nowhere
When the Chancellor told the country that we were all in it together, he somehow forgot to mention his own US green card and his wife's non-dom tax avoidance.
“Today, too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass in the street,” said Theresa May in 2016.
“But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.”
Looking back, May’s words could easily have described the current Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
Sunak, who borrowed a supermarket worker’s car for a photoshoot, but then couldn’t work out how to pay with a contactless card, lives the sort of rarified life that would make even the intended targets of May’s speech blush.
A former hedge-funder with around £200 million to his name and multiple houses in the UK and US, Sunak is married to Akshata Murty, who is herself worth considerably more than the Queen.
Sunak’s wife is the daughter of the Indian oligarch Narayana Murthy, whose own company had until last week maintained an office in Moscow, despite Sunak telling other businesses not to invest in the country.
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Murty has been based in the UK with her two children for many years and yet we now learn that she has been paying £30,000 a year in order to avoid giving up millions of pounds in tax to the UK.
When questioned about this arrangement, the Chancellor claimed (wrongly) that his wife’s non-dom status was an inevitable result of her Indian citizenship, adding that “I would never dream of giving up my UK citizenship.”
What he didn’t add is that until October last year he held a green card, which required him to declare his intention to be a permanent resident in the US.
The news has since caused questions to be asked at the White House, where the rules state that green card holders can lose their status if they are found to have been “running for political office in a foreign country”.
If none of this were enough to cement his man-on-the-street status, we now learn that Sunak appears to be the beneficiary of a tax haven.
According to the Independent journalist Anna Isaac: “trusts in the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, created to help manage the tax and business affairs of his wife Akshata Murty’s family interests, note Mr Sunak as a beneficiary in 2020.”
Yet at the same time as Sunak and his family reap the benefits of a tax system designed to protect the wealth of the international elite, the Chancellor himself has been lecturing the rest of us about the need to tighten our belts.
In his Spring Statement last month the Chancellor defended his decision to raise National Insurance by insisting that the country was all in it together.
However, what we now know is that while some of us may be in it together, the Chancellor and his family most certainly are not.
Citizens of nowhere
The news of Sunak’s slippery financial arrangements is all the more galling given the recently uncovered behaviour of his neighbour Boris Johnson.