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Cameron defends father's offshore investment fund

The British PM says it’s important that govt draws a line between enterprise & artificially reducing tax.

FILE. British Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron has been defending his father's offshore investment fund to Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom's Parliament.

After a terrible week defending his late father's offshore fund and the fact he used to have shares in it, Cameron is now trying to lead the debate.

Cameron has moved to defuse criticism over his handling of the fallout from the so-called Panama Papers by publishing his own tax records.

He says it's important that government draws a line between enterprise and artificially reducing tax.

However, his critics say there's one rule for the rich and one for the rest, a sentiment being echoed by many Africans who see some of the continent's ruling elite caught up in the scandal.

He says he's getting tough on organisations which allow tax evasion and individuals who abuse the tax system, making firms criminally liable if their employees fail to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion.

Most senior British politicians are now yielding to pressure to make their tax arrangements public, it's a growing global movement which will increase the pressure on African leaders to make their tax affairs and investments more transparent.

TRANSPARENCY

Cameron is hoping to regain the upper hand after facing accusations of hypocrisy for going after tax evaders when his father had set up an offshore fund.

On Thursday, he bowed to pressure and said he had profited from selling his shares in the fund in 2010 and on Sunday he published a summary of his tax records for the past six years.

But any hope he might draw a line under the row was short-lived, as local media zeroed in on a gift of 200,000 pounds Cameron received from his mother in 2011.

Some reports suggested it may have been a way of avoiding inheritance tax, though the Financial Times quoted tax experts as saying that was not the case.

With the Panama Papers leak having given fresh impetus to criticism that the government favors Britain's elite over ordinary voters, the wealth of other leading Conservative politicians has also come under scrutiny.

A source close to finance minister George Osborne, an ally of Cameron, said he was "always happy to consider ways to offer even more transparency", but "had never had any offshore shareholdings or other interests".

Cameron's spokeswoman said Cameron believed it was right that future British leaders and finance ministers should publish information on their tax returns.

The leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for all lawmakers to publish their tax records.

Additional information by Reuters

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