Evidence unearthed by an investigation has posed new questions about Rishi Sunak’s privileged background while he is vying to become the next prime minister during a cost of living crisis.
As he goes head-to-head with foreign secretary Liz Truss during the Conservative Party leadership race in a bid to succeed Boris Johnson, his supporters have insisted that he had a “modest” upbriging.
In recent weeks, his allies have claimed that he had won a scholarship to the private school Winchester College, which currently commands fees of £46,000 a year for a boarding pupil and £34,000 per year for a day pupil.
But research reported by Channel 4 News on Thursday evening has confirmed that the former chancellor did not receive a scholarship.
It unearthed a rarely-seen interview from 2000 showing his father saying that he and his wife made a “large financial commitment” for their eldest child’s education.
His father Yashvir said in the interview: “I think financially it was quite a huge commitment for us because Winchester, the fees at Winchester are double what you would pay if you went to the local school in Southampton. So it was quite a large financial commitment.”
After the researchers approached Mr Sunak, he admitted that he did not receive a scholarship.
It comes after former health secretary Matt Hancock told LBC’s Andrew Marr programme: “He got a scholarship to Winchester School and he got to Oxford on his own merit.”
Laura Farris MP, another supporter of Mr Sunak, told Channel 4 News earlier this month: “He won a scholarship to a private school, yes he excelled after that, he was very successful in his own right.”
The investigation also found that Mr Sunak, 41, was able to start his multi-million-pound property portfolio at the age of just 21 with an interest-free loan from his parents to buy a £210,000 one-bedroom flat in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Land Registry documents show he made the purchase with the loan of £105,000 – more than the average house price in Britain at the time.
He still owns the property, which is now estimated to be worth more than £750,000.
From 2010, five years before he became an MP, Mr Sunak was a partner at Theleme Partners – an investment bank in the US that was ultimately owned by a firm in the Cayman Islands.
He and other partners at the bank were paid with assets stashed in tax havens, Channel 4 says. The researchers asked him whether he earned assets offshore and, if so, what happened to them.
Channel 4 said that Mr Sunak did not deny that he received assets in tax havens, but that he said any assets he had were subject to US tax which was paid in full.
Mr Sunak is married to Akshata Murthy – the daughter of N R Narayana Murthy, one of India’s richest entrepreneurs. The couple has a combined net worth of about £730 million.
Previously, Ms Murthy had been accused of “sheltering” herself from paying tax in the UK after it emerged that she held non-domiciled status.
But after receiving backlash over her financial arrangements, she agreed in April to pay UK tax on her worldwide income, including dividends and capital gains, saying she did not want her tax status “to be a distraction” for her husband.
Records unearthed by Channel 4 show that, from about 2009, the couple had been living in a luxury beach-front property in Santa Monica, California, which was listed for rent at $19,500 (£16,300) a month. This had been previously unreported.
US legal documents have shown that Mr Sunak removed himself from the purchase of a luxury $6.8 million (£5.7m) penthouse in Santa Monica in 2014 – the year he was selected as the Tory candidate for Richmond (Yorks) and the year before he was elected to Parliament.
Under California law, a property is considered to be jointly-owned by married couples regardless of which person buys it. But Channel 4 News has discovered that Mr Sunak filed a legal deed, called a quitclaim, to sign away his rights to its ownership.
The Independent has contacted Mr Sunak’s campaign team for comment. In a statement, they told Channel 4: “Rishi is the product of a lot of hard work, kindness and sacrifice.
“His father was a GP who worked and his mother was a pharmacist, and he used to help out on the weekends.
“They both worked all hours to ensure they could give their children the best education they could because they value that above all else.
“He is dedicated to this country because of the opportunity it gave to him, his parents and his grandparents who moved here for a better life.”