Panama Papers: Britain's PM Cameron, family will not benefit in future from offshore funds, says spokesman

British PM David Cameron and his family will not benefit from the offshore funds mentioned in the Panama Papers, said a spokesman on April 6, 2016.
British PM David Cameron and his family will not benefit from the offshore funds mentioned in the Panama Papers, said a spokesman on April 6, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, his wife and their children do not stand to benefit in future from any offshore funds or trusts, Mr Cameron's spokesman said on Wednesday (April 6) as the British leader continued to face questions over family tax affairs.

Mr Cameron's late father, Ian, was among the tens of thousands of people named in leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca which showed how the world's rich and powerful are able to stash their wealth and avoid taxes.

After having initially described it as a private matter, Mr Cameron's office issued a statement on Tuesday saying that he and his family did not benefit from any such funds at present. During a business visit in central England, Mr Cameron also said he did not own any shares or have any offshore funds.

But his failure to say whether he or his family would benefit in future only intensified media speculation, with the story splashed across many newspaper front pages on Wednesday.

"There are no offshore funds or trusts which the prime minister, Mrs Cameron or their children will benefit from in future," a spokesman for the British leader said on Wednesday.

Mr Cameron has cast himself as a champion in the fight against tax evasion in British-linked territories such as the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, but the opposition Labour Party have said the "Panama Papers" show the government has failed to tackle the issue.

Labour lawmaker Wes Streeting, a member of Parliament's Treasury Select Committee, said the latest statement from Mr Cameron's office was welcome but there were still questions about whether he benefited from offshore funds in the past.

"From a public point of view, the question will be when our prime minister says he is serious about tackling it (tax evasion) ... are we absolutely certain he doesn't have a vested interest? And if he does have a vested interest, will he be up-front with us about it?" he told the BBC.

The Telegraph reported on Wednesday that Mr Ian Cameron's fund, Blairmore Holdings, moved its operations to Ireland in 2010, the year Mr Cameron became prime minister. It quoted a source close to the fund saying it had been moved because its directors believed it was about to "come under more scrutiny".

Asked whether the Prime Minister considered Ireland an offshore jurisdiction, his office repeated that Cameron had made clear he had no shares in any company and no offshore funds.

The "Panama Papers" add to a difficult few weeks for Mr Cameron in which one of his senior ministers resigned, his government was forced to drop a key element of its Budget and he has faced accusations of failing to protect Britain's industrial sector after Tata Steel put its entire UK operations up for sale.

Mr Anthony Wells, a director at pollsters YouGov, said that while the Panama story may not be that damaging for Mr Cameron, it has stopped his Conservatives focussing on their strengths ahead of local and regional elections next month. It has also diverted government attention away from a June 23 referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

"People already think Cameron is very posh, very rich and very out of touch. I expect most of the public probably assume he's got some huge steaming pile of cash stored away somewhere," he said.

"The Conservative Party could be talking about something where they are strong, like crime or the economy, where it would help them win votes. Instead they're not, they're talking about something that's really bad for them where Labour have something to say."

Finance Minister George Osborne, who also comes from a wealthy family, was asked whether he had any offshore funds.

"This Conservative government has done more than any Labour government or any previous government to tackle tax evasion, to tackle tax avoidance, to get money into the exchequer that is owed to the public," he responded.