Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure to reveal how much money it is – and how it is invested – after it emerged that he had placed his investments into a blind trust.
Opposition parties and anti-corruption charities urged the chancellor to be “completely transparent” about what he put into the trust – amid particular concern that some funds may be held offshore.
Blind trusts help ministers to avoid conflicts of interest, as they relinquish control over their investments – but also block scrutiny of any financial dealings.
They are controlled by a third party, so Sunak will have no knowledge over whether any shares he holds are traded. But, critics have said, there is potential for a conflict of interest – as he will have known what he was putting into the trust when it was created.
‘Entirely in the dark’
Sunak registered a blind trust in July last year, after he had been appointed chief secretary to the Treasury by Boris Johnson. No other chancellor has used one since 2009, when details of ministers’ interests began being published.
Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, is the only other cabinet minister to have a blind trust. Seven ministers in total have one.
Transparency campaigners warned that there are no requirements determining how the trusts are operated – and ministers do not need to reveal who is overseeing them.
Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, said: “Blind trusts were meant to help manage conflicts of interest but there is always a danger they will be used to hide financial interests from public view. It is essential that the contents of any such trust are made public.”
David Hames, policy director at Transparency International UK, said blind trusts “have the potential to resolve the conflict of interests ministers’ exiting investments can present”.
But, he said: “Without required standards for their design and operation – and independent oversight – we are entirely in the dark as to how effective these measures really are.”
Abena Oppong-Asare, the shadow exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: “Rishi Sunak needs to be completely transparent with the public about whether any of the funds he invested in a blind trust are held in offshore tax havens. Taxpayers paying their fair share expect nothing less.”
Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, added: “Sunak must own up to how blind this trust actually is. With public trust in this government plummeting, greater transparency in all their dealings is essential.”
Sunak is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian billionaire NR Narayana – who co-founded IT giant Infosys.