British PM admits mishandling offshore revelations

9th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday admitted mishandling the controversy over his father's offshore business interests, as demonstrators rallied outside his office calling for him to resign.

Cameron said he would publish his tax returns and shouldered the blame for the row over his financial affairs.

Cameron and his Downing Street office issued four comments regarding the Panama Papers before the premier on Thursday finally admitted he had held shares in his late father's Bahamas-based offshore investment fund.

"It has not been a great week. I know that I should have handled this better, I could have handled this better," he told his Conservative Party's spring forum in London.

"I know there are lessons to learn and I will learn them.

"Don't blame Number 10 Downing Street or nameless advisers; blame me."

A few hundred demonstrators, many wearing Panama hats, gathered outside Downing Street later Saturday to call for Cameron's resignation.

Protesters carrying signs reading "Eton's Mess", in reference to the exclusive school attended by Cameron, and "What goes in Panama does not stay in Panama", marched from Cameron's central London office to Trafalgar Square, bringing traffic to a halt.

On Thursday, Cameron admitted he and his wife had held a stake in his father's Blairmore Holdings scheme. They bought the stake for £12,497 in 1997 and sold it for £31,500, four months before he became prime minister in 2010.

The revelations in the Panama Papers, resulting from what the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca blamed on a computer hack launched from abroad, revealed how the world's wealthy stashed assets in offshore companies.

"The facts are these: I bought shares in a unit trust -- shares that are like any other sorts of shares and I paid taxes on them in exactly the same way," Cameron told his party's gathering.

"I sold those shares. In fact, I sold all the shares that I owned, on becoming prime minister.

"And later on I will be publishing the information that goes into my tax return, not just for this year but the years gone past because I want to be completely open and transparent about these things.

"I will be the first prime minister, the first leader of a major political party, to do that and I think it is the right thing to do."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for Cameron to make a formal Commons statement on the issue and on Sunday said he would publish his own tax returns "very, very soon".

- Demonstration in Iceland -

Meanwhile, a major anti-government rally attracted thousands of protesters in Iceland in a test of the opposition's ability to mobilise support following the Panama Papers revelations that toppled the premier.

The demonstration follows five consecutive days of protests sparked by the leak of millions of documents exposing the hidden offshore dealings of political figures and celebrities across the world.

The leak claimed the scalp of prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson following revelations that he and his wife owned an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands and had placed millions of dollars of her inheritance there.

The issue is particularly sensitive in Iceland following the 2008 collapse of the nation's three main banks, which plunged the country into a deep recession and left thousands mired in debt.

In Panama, President Juan Carlos Varela said Friday that France's decision to put the central American country on its list of tax havens in the wake of the revelations was "wrong".

"The decision taken by France's government is a wrong and unnecessary step, even more so given the communication between both heads of state and the fact the world needs multilateral cooperation from all countries to tackle global problems," he told reporters.

He added that his finance minister, Dulcidio de la Guardia, would travel to Paris on Tuesday to stress that Panama was a country that was "dignified, respectful and open to dialogue", as well as one committed to greater transparency.

Police on Friday raided the El Salvador offices of Mossack Fonseca, netting "a good amount of computer equipment", the country's state prosecutor's office said on its Twitter account.

No arrests were made.


© 2016 AFP

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