President Barack Obama walks out to speak about about new rules aimed at deterring tax inversions, Tuesday, April 5, 2016
President Barack Obama walks out to speak about about new rules aimed at deterring tax inversions, Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Panama Papers

Panama Papers hit political agendas around the world

The office of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron issues a statement Wednesday that “there are no offshore funds/trusts which the prime minister, Mrs. Cameron or their children will benefit from in future.” It was the most recent in a string of responses about Blairmore, an investment fund run by his father Ian and incorporated in the Bahamas, which avoided paying tax in Britain, as disclosed in the Panama Papers.

Previously the prime minister’s statements about whether he or his family benefitted from his father’s offshore firm Blairmore had been in the present tense, prompting speculation about future benefits. For instance, a spokesperson said Tuesday that “the prime minister, his wife and their children do not benefit from any offshore funds.” That was after trying to dismiss it as a “private matter” on Monday.

Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had pushed back. “It’s a private matter insofar as it’s a privately held interest. But it’s not a private matter if tax is not being paid. So an investigation must take place, an independent investigation, unprejudiced, to decide whether or not tax has been paid.

David Cameron addressing the Panama Papers revelations
David Cameron addressing the Panama Papers revelations

“I think the Prime Minister, in his own interest, should tell us exactly what’s been going on.”

He also called for the Cameron government to take a stronger stance with British crown territories such as the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands. They should be told, “you must obey U.K. tax law, you must not become a harbor for tax avoidance and tax evasion.”

Also on Tuesday, President Barack Obama spoke out about tax havens. In announcing new U.S. Treasury rules designed to make it harder for corporations to reduce their taxes by merging with foreign firms, he also noted, “We’ve had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem. It’s not unique to other countries.

“A lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s not that they’re breaking the laws, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, battling his Senate colleague Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president, meanwhile used the Panama papers to attack her. “I was opposed to the Panama Free Trade Agreement from day one,” he said in a statement released by his campaign. “I predicted that the passage of this disastrous trade deal would make it easier, not harder, for the wealthy and large corporations to evade taxes by sheltering billions of dollars offshore. I wish I had been proven wrong about this, but it has now come to light that the extent of Panama’s tax avoidance scams is even worse than I had feared.

“My opponent, on the other hand, opposed this trade agreement when she was running against Barack Obama for president in 2008. But when it really mattered she quickly reversed course and helped push the Panama Free Trade Agreement through Congress as Secretary of State. The results have been a disaster.”

In Pakistan, opponents of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, including retired cricket star and politician Imran Khan, hammered him with demands that the country’s corruption watchdog open an investigation. Wednesday Sharif announced that he would do so. Three of his children owned London real estate through offshore companies. according to files examined by the International Consortium of International Journalists and its partners.