British Prime Minister David Cameron conceded on Saturday that he had bungled his acknowledgement of his investment in an offshore fund, a controversy that drove thousands out onto London’s streets to denounce him and the Panama law firm involved.
Mr. Cameron drew laughs and applause from a sympathetic audience of Conservative Party activists as he opened a speech in London with a mea culpa.
“Well, it’s not been a great week,” he deadpanned. “I could have handled this better. I know there are lessons to learn, and I will learn them. And don’t blame No. 10 Downing Street or nameless advisers. Blame me.”
It was Mr. Cameron’s first public appearance since his admission on Thursday night that he had owned shares in a Bahamas-based trust from 1997 to 2010, ending four days of obfuscating statements issued through aides.
The Prime Minister is one of scores of political leaders, celebrities and sports stars who have been linked to shell companies and investment trusts following last weekend’s massive data breach at the Panama City-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in registering offshore companies.
Mr. Cameron has made the closure of global tax loopholes a focal point of his government, but rejected charges of hypocrisy on the issue.
“This government that I lead will go on very clearly, very doggedly, very determinedly making sure that we crack down on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance,” he said.
Outside the Conservatives’ lavish event, dozens of police formed a human barrier as thousands of left-wing protesters demanded Mr. Cameron’s ouster. Many protesters waved placards portraying Mr. Cameron as an out-of-touch elitist, while others held signs mocking the Panama firm with the slogan “Mossack Fonseca — Because taxes are for poor people.”
Mr. Cameron faces mounting pressure from opposition lawmakers to reveal the full extent of his past investment in offshore trusts, particularly those run by his late father, Ian, a millionaire stockbroker who placed much off his savings in island tax havens.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and others say they will press Mr. Cameron on the issue when Parliament reconvenes on Monday.
2015 Kashmir Despatch