Rishi Sunak faces fresh crisis as two top Tories dragged into row over tax
PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak faces yet another crisis as two Tory bosses have been dragged into a tax row.
The Mirror reports that Tory treasurer Graham Edwards, brought in by Sunak to run the party’s finances, was found to have used a tax avoidance scheme.
The newspaper also reports that Tory chief executive Stephen Massey still works for a firm that encouraged the rich to slash their tax bills by investing money into a controversial movie project.
This comes just two days after he sacked Nadhim Zahawi for a breach of the ministerial code.
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Property tycoon Edwards has donated £940,000 to the Conservative Party since 2019 and was named as treasurer last month.
Following a dispute with HMRC, he was found to have wrongly tried to reduce the tax due on £5 million he had received in bonuses.
According to court documents, a trust set up as part of a complicated tax scheme was used to buy Edwards a £1.5m country mansion.
A tax tribunal ruled that the scheme was tax avoidance in 2007. He challenged the decision in both the High Court and Court of Appeal although these were dismissed.
Labour’s Anneliese Dodds said: “From the party chair sacked over his tax affairs to the party treasurer who took part in a tax avoidance scheme, Rishi Sunak is drowning in a swamp of sleaze.
“Rishi Sunak promised professionalism, integrity and accountability at every level, but instead we’ve got a torrent of questions over those he put at the top of the Conservative Party.”
Massey started as the Conservative Party’s chief executive in November, although remains chairman of firm Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management, where he has worked for the past decade.
Clients launched legal action against the company in 2019 after it advised them to put their money into a film investment scheme which was targeted by the taxman.
They complained a HMRC crackdown left them with huge bills to pay.
On its website, Canaccord Genuity states that it helps its customers invest “in the most tax-efficient manner”.
Massey has donated £343,000 to the Tories, including £25,000 to Sunak’s leadership campaign.
He has temporarily been handed the duties of the Conservative Party chairman following Zahawi’s sacking.
A spokesman for Massey told the newspaper 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”.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for 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.
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“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.
“Mr Edwards bought the property mentioned with fully taxed income.”
The Conservative Party declined to comment when approached by the Mirror.
Sunak said yesterday he had acted “pretty decisively” as he faced criticism for dithering before sacking Zahawi.