After nearly 25 years at a major city law firm, Dan Neidle had anticipated a quiet retirement, but instead is playing a leadership role in a political storm.
Neidle, who retired from his job as a partner at Clifford Chance last year, has spent the past six months investigating the tax affairs of Nadhim Zahawi, the chairman of the Conservative Party.
The 49-year-old intended to spend more time with his family when he moved to the countryside and set up Tax Policy Associates Ltd. It describes itself as a “unique non-profit organization”, aiming to provide “expert and unbiased services ”. Advice on tax policy.
He claims he never “set out” to examine Mr Zahawi last July when it was reported that the then Chancellor was the subject of an investigation by the National Crime Agency and HMRC, which was later denied.
After what he described as a “completely entertaining few days” going through the records of YouGov and Balshore Investments, a company Zahawi founded and to which he was linked, Neidle said he made several discoveries that seemed “odd.”
These included Balshore with “founder shares” in YouGov, which Zahawi himself would normally have received. He also noted a gift of £99,000 to Balshore’s Mr Zahawi, as well as around £24m of “fully tax-free” gains in Balshore’s YouGov shares.
Neidle posted his findings on Twitter and his blog throughout July, prompting Zahawi to first say that his father had provided seed money and then to argue that he was relying on his father’s “very significant contribution” to help develop YouGov.
Alleged lack of transparency
A claim that the claim about his father was incorrect led to an email from Osborne Clarke, Zahawi’s lawyers, demanding that he retract his accusation of “dishonesty”.
Undeterred, Neidle published the defamatory letters sent to him and continued to allege a lack of transparency in a series of posts.
Revelations last week that Mr Zahawi had paid millions of pounds to HMRC brought both the row and the former Magic Circle lawyer back into the spotlight.
Allies of the Tory chairman point out that Neidle is not politically neutral, pointing to his work as a Labor Party supporter, member and activist.
Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, said on Sunday it was “disappointing” that some of the coverage of the dispute failed to mention her earlier application for the National Constitutional Labor Committee.
In an email shared by Mr Neidle, Osborne Clarke said his tweets and blog “contain numerous inaccuracies and speculation… He is clearly not prepared to take an impartial approach, as evidenced by the fact that he has not been transparent about his roles within the Labor Party”.
Referring to his political leanings on Twitter, Neidle said: “I am a member of the Labor Party… Needless to say, my tax commentary has always been even-handed. I have defended Sunak, Hunt, Rees-Mogg and Cameron against charges of tax evasion.”
Only time will tell how the current political dispute over Zahawi’s taxes is resolved. But for now, Neidle continues his crusade, as his work over the past six months reaches an ever-growing audience.