An independent ministerial ethics advisor to the UK government on Wednesday cleared Chancellor Rishi Sunak of any wrongdoing over his wife Akshata Murty’s tax status and his possession of a US permanent resident’s Green Card while in office.
The Indian-origin finance minister had referred himself to Lord Christopher Geidt to investigate any alleged ministerial conduct breaches after revelations that his wife, the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, did not pay UK tax on her Indian income under her legal non-domicile tax status.
The probe also covered further revelations around Sunak having a Green Card two years after being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK Cabinet.
“I advise that the requirements of the Ministerial Code have been adhered to by the Chancellor, and that he has been assiduous in meeting his obligations and in engaging with this investigation,” Lord Geidt’s advise to Prime Minister Boris Johnson reads.
“In reaching these judgements, I am confined to the question of conflicts of interest and the requirements of the Ministerial Code. My role does not touch on any wider question of the merits of such interests or arrangements,” he adds.
There were no allegations of lawbreaking, but Sunak and his wife faced media and Opposition attacks with allegations of inappropriate conduct for the official in charge of taxation and the economy at a time when Britain is facing a cost-of-living crisis fuelled by soaring energy prices.
Geidt, the adviser on ministers’ interests, found two instances where Murty’s tax status “could have given rise to a conflict of interest” for Sunak, but said in both cases Sunak had dealt with them properly and openly. He also concluded that there was no “inherent conflict of interest” in Sunak holding a Green Card.
A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently in the US.
Earlier this month, it emerged that Murty owns a stake in Infosys. Geidt notes in his findings that the shareholding was “properly declared” and that the Indian software firm has held no UK Treasury contracts during Sunak’s time in office.
Sunak, a 41-year-old former hedge fund manager, had been seen as a likely successor to Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, until the financial revelations raised questions about his judgment and damaged his sure-footed image.
He has also been fined by police, along with Johnson and some 50 others, for attending a party in the Prime Minister’s office in 2020 that broke coronavirus lockdown rules at the time.
Geidt answers directly to the UK Prime Minister, and last year he cleared Johnson of breaking the ministerial code by failing to disclose that a Conservative party donor had funded a pricey refurbishment of the his official Downing Street residence.