Home U.S ANDREW PIERCE: Gilded life of 'billionaire couple' with FOUR luxury properties

ANDREW PIERCE: Gilded life of 'billionaire couple' with FOUR luxury properties

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At meetings with his Treasury team, Rishi Sunak has been known to recite words of wisdom from his tycoon father-in-law, Narayana Murthy.

‘One of my favourite quotes of his is: ‘In God we trust, but everyone else needs to bring data to the table,’ the Chancellor has revealed. ‘It’s something I try to live by … I’m always interested in getting the data, getting the facts.’

Well, a growing chorus now believe it’s time he shared some ‘data’ and ‘facts’ of his own.

Specifically – how many millions in tax might his wife Akshata Murty have saved thanks to her coveted status as a ‘non-dom’ – domiciled abroad for tax purposes but resident in Britain, with all the advantages that life in these islands confers?

Thanks to her oh-so-attractive deal with HMRC, the Chancellor’s wife – unlike you and me – can earn money abroad free of the taxes set by her own husband at No 11.

The Chancellor himself is said to have four cars, including a high-spec Range Rover costing about £94,000, a top-of-the-range Lexus and BMW, both kept in California – and a more humble Volkswagen Golf, which was the only one he thought to mention in Parliament)

The Chancellor himself is said to have four cars, including a high-spec Range Rover costing about £94,000, a top-of-the-range Lexus and BMW, both kept in California – and a more humble Volkswagen Golf, which was the only one he thought to mention in Parliament)

Capital gains, income, inheritance – you name it, if the cash is earned abroad, the Treasury doesn’t see a penny of tax on it, even though she has made her life here along with her public servant husband.

Yesterday, these extraordinary financial arrangements were met with fury. Sunak himself has hammered ordinary families with manifesto-breaking tax rises, hiking the overall tax burden to the highest since the far-Left government of Clement Attlee after the War – while simultaneously, it appears, standing by as his own family avoided perhaps millions in taxes themselves.

So let’s look at the numbers – and the remarkable lifestyle that being members of the tax-hating super-rich brings the Sunaks.

Miss Murty’s father founded computing firm Infosys in 1981 – and it’s now a £77billion giant. She owns a little under 1 per cent, a stake worth £713million. This sum dwarfs even the Queen’s fortune, which Forbes estimates at £325million. Miss Murty’s family also has a £900million venture with Amazon in India.

Not that Rishi is short of a bob or two. He made a fortune in the hedge fund industry before entering Parliament, and is reputedly worth £200million himself.

Thanks to her oh-so-attractive deal with HMRC, the Chancellor’s wife – unlike you and me – can earn money abroad free of the taxes set by her own husband at No 11.

Thanks to her oh-so-attractive deal with HMRC, the Chancellor’s wife – unlike you and me – can earn money abroad free of the taxes set by her own husband at No 11.

The Sunaks have therefore been convincingly dubbed Westminster’s first ‘billionaire couple’: they may enjoy the largest family fortune of any Commons clan since Clive of India’s in the 18th Century.

Last year alone, the Chancellor’s wife enjoyed Infosys dividends totalling £11.6million. Her non-dom status means she avoided the UK’s 38.1 per cent foreign-dividend tax on these – a saving of £4.4million, although she might have paid some tax overseas.

As to her own business efforts, she is now the sole director of Catamaran Ventures UK, which invests in startups, and which she launched with Rishi in 2013 (he transferred his shares to her before becoming an MP in 2015). Her father runs Catamaran’s Indian arm.

Alas, not all Catamaran’s projects have been a success. A private members club, Lava Mayfair Club Ltd, collapsed last year owing almost £44million to creditors, including £374,000 to HMRC. Another venture, education firm Mrs Wordsmith, went into administration last year owing £16.3million – after receiving a £1.3million loan from the Government’s Future Fund.

Miss Murty’s eponymous fashion label, Akshata Designs, folded ignominiously in Britain after three years. She is also a director of a gym chain as well as New & Lingwood, the outfitter that supplies the tailcoats worn by Etonians and which also sells £2,750 silk dressing gowns. (It’s not known to what extent she was personally involved in these businesses.)

Her spokesman had earlier pointed out that India does not allow its citizens to hold dual citizenship, claiming: ‘She has always … paid UK tax on all her UK income.’

However, tax experts raised eyebrows at this, suggesting that non-dom status is a ‘choice’. Professor Richard Murphy, co-founder of the Tax Justice Network, added: ‘Domicile has nothing to do with a person’s nationality.’

Meanwhile, top tax lawyer Dan Neidle suggested that, even if Miss Murty’s fortune is valued at only £500million, her non-dom status could one day save her estate inheritance taxes of £200million.

The timing of these revelations really could not be worse.

Tory MPs, I’m told, were aghast when news of Miss Murty’s tax deal emerged on Wednesday, when a grinning Rishi had stood beside the Prime Minister to defend a punitive national insurance hike.

At meetings with his Treasury team, Rishi Sunak has been known to recite words of wisdom from his tycoon father-in-law, Narayana Murthy. ‘One of my favourite quotes of his is: “In God we trust, but everyone else needs to bring data to the table,”’ the Chancellor has revealed

At meetings with his Treasury team, Rishi Sunak has been known to recite words of wisdom from his tycoon father-in-law, Narayana Murthy. ‘One of my favourite quotes of his is: ‘In God we trust, but everyone else needs to bring data to the table,’ the Chancellor has revealed

Not that the Sunaks are likely to worry much about the cost of living. Their property portfolio alone is thought to be worth some £14million.

This includes their main, five-bedroom London house, valued at £7million and situated on an exquisite Kensington mews.

They bought it – in cash – for £4.5million in 2010. Sprawling across four floors, it includes four bathrooms, and includes access to an exclusive private garden. They also own a £1.5million Georgian mansion set in 12 acres in Sunak’s constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire. Each summer, the Sunaks invite the villagers round to an opulent garden party.

Staff in uniform pour champagne and serve canapes, as guests mingle alongside the ornamental lake with its boathouse and wooded island. No wonder some locals have nicknamed the Chancellor ‘the Maharaja of the Dales’.

Then there is their dazzling penthouse apartment – listed under Miss Murty’s name – in Santa Monica, California. Valued at £5.5million, it has sweeping views of the Pacific, while the building boasts a 24/7 concierge, ‘fitness centre’ and ‘pet spa’ where ‘furry companions can get pampered’. Oh, and there’s a £1million flat in Kensington’s Old Brompton Road.

Sunak – who was educated at Winchester College, where fees are now £43,000 per year – met his future wife at Stanford University in California. (This week, the couple were reported to have donated at least £100,000 to the public school in Hampshire.)

They married in 2009 in a lavish two-day spectacular in Bangalore, attended by tycoons and cricketing royalty. In an open letter to his daughter, published in a book in India in 2016, Mr Murty described how he tried to teach her the virtue of moderation.

‘There was an instance in Bangalore,’ he reminisced, ‘when you were selected for a school drama for which you were required to wear a special dress. It was in the mid-1980s, Infosys had just begun its operations and we did not have enough money to spend on non-basic goods.

‘Your mother explained to you that we would not be able to buy the dress and that you would have to drop out of the performance … we knew you learnt something important from that: the importance of austerity.’

Rishi doesn’t seem to have got the memo. Only last month, as the cost of living crisis escalated, he was pictured strolling through SW1 wearing a £335 pair of white leather trainers.

Rishi is evidently fond of trendy luxury goods. When he was working on emergency financial measures during the pandemic in 2020, he released pictures of himself in his office alongside a £180 ‘bluetooth coffee mug’ featuring a ‘charging coaster’, which keeps his drinks at his preferred temperature. (Some suggested the only ‘mug’ is the person who’d buy such a thing.)

The public was willing to forgive such apparent signs of being out-of-touch as long as the Chancellor was shovelling ‘free’ money at them during the pandemic in furlough payments, Covid business loans and the rest. But now the bill for his largesse has landed – and the electorate’s patience has worn thin.

After last month’s badly received Spring Statement, in which he stuck to his national insurance hike, Sunak arranged a photo-op filling a car with petrol to publicise the 5p cut in fuel duty.

It was a disaster. Sunak appeared to hold his bank card to the barcode scanner and filled up a Kia car he had borrowed for the occasion from a supermarket worker.

The Chancellor himself is said to have four cars, including a high-spec Range Rover costing about £94,000, a top-of-the-range Lexus and BMW, both kept in California – and a more humble Volkswagen Golf, which was the only one he thought to mention in Parliament.)

All this has inevitably led some to wonder: can the Chancellor possibly identify with the concerns of struggling voters?

A recent YouGov poll found that more than half of Britons now have an unfavourable opinion of him, compared with 28 per cent who view him in a positive light.

One Tory source said: ‘He was the golden boy when he was giving away public money during the lockdown, but the gloss has well and truly worn off. Revelations about his wife’s non-dom status are a PR calamity for him – and for us as a government.’

Will he come clean about the details of these arrangements? Or does his fondness for ‘facts’ and ‘data’ not always apply when it comes to his own affairs?

Additional reporting Calum Muirhead

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