David Cameron 'attempted to intervene' over offshore accounts

Posted On: 
7th April 2016

David Cameron attempted to intervene to prevent EU plans to reveal the beneficiaries of offshore trusts in 2013, a letter has revealed.

David Cameron in ongoing row over the so-called Panama Papers
PA Images

The Prime Minister wrote to the then president of the European council arguing that trusts should have special treatment under EU law.

The revelation comes as the row over the so-called 'Panama Papers' row over the use of tax havens by wealthy individuals, including Mr Cameron's late father, rumbled on.

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Ian Cameron's name was among millions of leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is accused of helping its clients exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.

The firm denies any wrongdoing.

The papers showed Ian Cameron had set up an investment fund in the Bahamas that paid no UK tax during its 30 years of operations.

Yesterday Downing Street issued a fourth statement clarifying Mr Cameron's own financial affairs.

A spokesman said: "There are no offshore funds/trusts which the Prime Minister, Mrs Cameron or their children will benefit from in future."

Number 10 had initially said the Prime Minister's tax arrangements were "a private matter",  but Mr Cameron eventually made a public statement at an EU referendum event in Birmingham.

He said: "I own no shares, I have a salary as Prime Minister and I have some savings which I get some interest from and we have a house which we used to live in and which we now let out while we're living in Downing Street, and that's all I have. I have no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds, nothing like that."

But in a letter seen by the Financial Times, Mr Cameron wrote in 2013: “As we clamp down on the misuse of companies, we must take care not to displace illicit activity elsewhere".

"Currently authorities are gaining access to more information than ever before on trusts, especially offshore trusts, through automatic tax information agreements being concluded by the UK and other EU countries," he wrote.

"I know some want Europe to go even further to prevent the abuse of trusts and related private legal agreements. It is clearly important we recognise the important differences between companies and trusts.

"This means that the solution for addressing the potential misuse of companies - such as central public registers - may well not be appropriate generally."

A Government spokesman said: "At the time of the Prime Minister's letter, the government was concerned that including trusts would distract from action against those areas of most concern, such as shell companies, and, in practice, these further changes weren't achievable.

"In the subsequent negotiations, we were able to secure a sensible way forward which ensures that trusts which generate tax consequences have to report their ownership to HMRC."