As if being beaten in a popularity contest by Suella Braverman wasn’t enough embarrassment, newly appointed chancellor Nadhim Zahawi now faces renewed scrutiny into his and his family’s financial dealings.
The MP for Stratford has had quite the week. On Sunday alone, The Mirror reported that a company set up by Zahawi and his wife to manage their property empire is allegedly funded with a “mystery £30mn loan”. Hours later the Independent revealed that HM Revenue & Customs had begun an inquiry into his tax affairs.
Zahawi responded by telling Sky News on Monday that he was “clearly being smeared”. He also promised to publish his future tax returns, stating: “I don’t think being retrospective is right.”
You can see why he might think so. Top sleuthing by Dan Neidle, head of the Tax Policy Associates think tank, suggests Zahawi has questions to answer over his purported involvement with Balshore Investments, a Gibraltar-incorporated company managed by his parents which previously held a sizeable stake in YouGov, the market research group Zahawi co-founded in 2000.
Zahawi’s parents have been busy. As of last month they exercised “significant influence or control“ at Crowd2Fund, a peer-to-peer lending company run by Matt Hancock’s brother Chris. Clearly the Zahawis like what Chris Hancock is selling: Balshore was a shareholder until 2016 and its investment director Mahmood Yusuf was recently appointed a C2F non-executive director.
Also of interest is Zahawi’s relationship with US hedge fund Privero Capital, which was until its dissolution partly owned by Balshore and YouGov co-founder Stephen Shakespeare.
In early 2007, YouGov launched YouGovAlpha, a consultancy providing “services tailored to the specific needs of fund managers and investment professionals.” Privero began using insights gathered by YouGovAlpha soon after, and owed YouGov £480,000 by July 2007.
Privero last appeared in YouGov’s books in 2014, when it owed the polling group £180,000. YouGovAlpha had by that point been dissolved for three years, with its final set of accounts showing losses of £315,000 for the year ending January 2010.
Privero was set up by David Crisanti, a college wrestler turned Credit Suisse First Boston trader who twenty years ago was ordered to pay a fine after he and several others were charged with attempting to manipulate the Swedish stock market. CSFB also received a fine.
That episode marked the end of the so-called Flaming Ferraris, a group of full-throttle equity traders “known for their gold-fingered touch in the equities markets and their flamboyant lifestyles,” according to The Sunday Times.
Zahawi is one of 36 people following Crisanti on Twitter. In 2013, Crisanti described Masters of Nothing — a book co-authored by Matt Hancock and Zahawi on human nature and the financial crisis — as “the best explanation I’ve read of just what it was that possessed the risk takers.” Crisanti did not respond to a request for comment.
Zahawi’s links to the Flaming Ferraris go further. It’s by now well known that Zahawi is an old associate of Jeffrey Archer, the former Lord who was jailed for two years in the early noughties for perjury and perverting the course of justice. It just so happens that his son, James, was one of the Flaming Ferraris punished along with Crisanti.
What’s the younger Archer up to now? Until this time last year, according to Companies House, he was a director at Homie Ltd, a real estate consultancy that appears to have run aground. In charge is one Alexander Faisal Zahawi Eid. Though he didn’t respond to a request for comment, his LinkedIn shows he interned at YouGov in 2009.