Nadhim Zahavi is a man on a mission – and he’s in no mood to take prisoners in his quest to become the next prime minister.
In his first on-air interview since entering the race, the new chancellor told Sky News exclusively how the boy from Baghdad has nothing to hide with his tax affairs – even if he’s not sure how rich he is; how loyalty is so important to him – despite his involvement in ousting the Prime Minister – and how he hero-worships Maggie Thatcher.
Mr Zahavi has also been at the center of scandal over a taxpayer-funded bill to heat stables for his horses – “an embarrassing but honest mistake” – and his involvement in a notorious men-only event where some attendees reportedly groped housewives.
The event made him feel “incredibly uncomfortable”.
Chancellor for just over a week, Mr Zahavi was clearly burning the midnight oil by brushing off his brief.
He told us how a 20% cut in the running costs of every government department would give enough fiscal power to be able to cut taxes.
He is looking at corporate tax cuts; income tax and national insurance. He also promised a 9% pay rise for junior teachers, but would not make a similar pledge for other public sector workers because we faced a “national emergency”.
Turning to my own finances, I see the chancellor sitting a little straighter in his rather expensive lounge chair in the room where we are filming at the Intercontinental Hotel, overlooking Hyde Park.
What was your reaction when you saw reports that your own tax affairs had been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, the National Crime Agency and HMRC?
“It is clear that I was slandered. I was told that I was being investigated by the Anti-Fraud Office, the National Crime Agency and HMRC.
“I don’t know about that. I’ve always declared my taxes – I’ve paid my taxes in the UK. I’ll answer any questions HMRC have for me.
“But I’m going to go further. I’m committing today that if I’m prime minister, the right thing to do is to publish my reports every year. It’s the right thing to do because we need to get this off the table.”
“I will publish my accounts annually, that’s right.”
“I will see what the options are in terms of backdating and annual publication.”
Over the past decade?
“If I’m prime minister, I’ll be publishing them going forward. I don’t think hindsight is the right thing to do. I used to be in business, I got out of that, of course, now I’m in politics.”
Is it true that your family is benefiting from an offshore trust?
“My family does not benefit from offshore – I do not use an offshore trust, neither does my wife – we do not benefit from it at all. Mother and father live abroad – that’s their business. live in the UK’.
Have you ever been homeless?
“I’ve never had the status of not being home.”
Have you ever used offshore companies to avoid taxes?
“Never used an offshore company to avoid taxes.”
Do you have a family?
“My family – my wife has never been a citizen, she has never used offshore status to avoid taxes.”
Have you told us all about your business dealings that could potentially affect your future ability to be Prime Minister?
“Yes, I have.”
Have you ever used offshore companies or tax haven firms to buy property or real estate in the UK?
– No, I didn’t have.
Have you fully declared all your property in the deputy register?
“Yes, we have.”
Did you pay the necessary taxes, including stamp duty, when you bought this property?
Press reports claim that you once owned £20m of YouGov shares in Balford Investments, based in Gibraltar, according to Companies House records. What is the reason for using such offshore financial structures, if not to avoid paying taxes?
“I was not a beneficiary of the Balshore investment holding these shares.”
Who was it?
“My family. This is a public matter – my father.”
But why would you do that if it’s not to avoid taxes?
“He lives abroad, he doesn’t live in the United Kingdom.”
Eventually we moved on, but not before I asked Mr. Zahavi, “How rich are you?”
He hesitates for a moment before offering a flirtatious response.
By shying away from any exact numbers, he gives the impression that he may be so rich that he simply doesn’t know the answer.
This could be a problem for the incoming prime minister, who wants to be the man to lead the country out of its cost-of-living crisis.
In truth, he is not alone in his abundant wealth. Some of the runners and racers are multi-millionaires, including Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps.
There are other embarrassing questions he has to answer, including in 2013 when he claimed the cost of heating the stables for his horses at the Warwickshire estate he owns with his wife.
“A real mistake. I really don’t understand [his stable heating and personal heating] came on one account.”
“It was a complete mistake, a mistake, and of course I apologized and paid.”
Asked if he was embarrassed, Mr Zahavi said: “Of course. Very embarrassing. But it was a real mistake. It is much better to admit and demonstrate than to do anything else.”
Back in 2018, he attended a men-only event at the Dorchester Hotel – a stone’s throw from where we’re doing this interview.
The housewives claimed that they were groped by some of those present. A scandal broke out, which led to the liquidation of the charitable fund-raising club.
Then the Minister for Children, Mr. Zahavi, says he arrived late and left early, feeling uncomfortable.
“Ladies, the hostesses went around every table, which made me incredibly uncomfortable, so I left dinner and went home.
“I think when you think about it, including the charity itself, these all-male lunches are wrong. I think one of the things that I admire is that we treat people right, including those who serve us, whether in government or elsewhere.”
When asked what he would tell his sons if they were to consider attending such an event, Mr. Zahavi says firmly: “Don’t go.”
I also asked him about loyalty. He was criticized for taking over as chancellor from Boris Johnson and within 36 hours sacking the man who appointed him to the job.
He said: “I remained loyal to the end. In fact, when I and many other colleagues went to see him on Wednesday night, I sat with him and said: ‘I’ve known you for 30 years – they’re going to try and put you down and I can’t stand it. to see you humiliated.’
“I want to explain to you what I think should happen, and I hope you will consider it and do it with dignity.”
By the end of the interview, Mr. Zahavi answered all my questions, refusing to shy away from embarrassing moments and loudly defending his plans for the future.
In the next few weeks, we will see whether the Boy from Baghdad, who arrived in the UK without knowing the language, has done enough to win over his colleagues and Conservatives across the country to what he sees as the ultimate prize – the Prime Ministership.