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15th Nov 2021

Tory Minister accused of hiding astonishing payments from oil company

Ava Evans

Nahdim Zahawi concealed hundreds of thousands of pounds from the Register of Members Interests, as sleaze-scandal continues to unravel Boris Johnson’s MPs

A Tory Minister was able to conceal £1.3 million of extra cash paid by a role with Bermuda-listed Gulf Keystone from 2015. 

Education Secretary Nahdim Zahawi was trousering hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash from an oil company through a company he owned in part with his wife.

The deal was concealed on the Register of Interests by a loophole that allowed the then-backbench MP to funnel cash through his self-titled consultancy firm “Zahawi & Zahawi”. 

The legal loophole meant he only had to declare his appointment, not how much money he earned.  

Zahawi took the role with Gulf Keystone at the same time he was Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan. 

Gulf Keystone owns one of the largest oil fields in Kurdistan.

According to the Register of Member’s Interests, in 2016 the oil company was paying Zahawi a monthly salary of £20,125 and several bonuses exceeding £305,000. 

As pointed out by an investigation by The Mirror, Zahawi’s registered earnings from Gulf Keystone Petroleum included a final £285,000 “settlement payment” when he resigned to become a government minister in 2018. 

There is no suggestion Zahawi broke the rules, but Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told The Mirror: “This could be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to get around the rules so that he doesn’t have to admit the scale of his earnings in a consultant capacity.”

He added: “The important thing to stress is that MPs have their personal responsibility to ensure that they comply not only with the letter but the spirit of the code of conduct.

“Constituents have a right to know how much time and money he is taking separate to his political work.”

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been accused of running a “secret lobbying” operation on behalf of private airfields. 

It seems the cabinet minister created an Airfield Advisory Team (AAT), funded with public money, to help airfields contest development plans to build on them.

Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Angela Rayner has accused Shapps of “not only a breach of the Ministerial Code but a complete and total breach of any standards of integrity and decency in public office”.

Labour has written to the Prime Minister’s independent adviser on ministerial standards, Lord Geidt, to investigate the “secret unit of lobbyists” that are providing paid guidance on how to lobby against the government itself. 

Rayner said it was another example of Johnson’s ministers bringing “shame on our democracy”.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport denied Shapps was involved in “lobbying” but said: “It is right that the Transport Secretary works to promote all aspects of the Department’s brief including the general aviation sector which contributes £4 billion to the economy.”

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