Mr Cameron’s family links to an offshore tax shelter have re-emerged just as the Prime Minister prepares to host and chair an anti-corruption summit of charities, non-governmental bodies and world leaders to encourage more tax transparency in London next month.
Ian Cameron’s name was in more than 11 million leaked documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca that were passed to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to 107 media organisations including The Guardian and BBC’s Panorama.
According to the Consortium, Ian Cameron used Mossack Fonseca’s services to shield profits form his investment fund, Blairmore Holdings Inc, with a series of expensive and complicated arrangements.
Ian Cameron, who died in 2010, was a director of Blairmore, an investment fund run from the Bahamas but named after the family’s ancestral home in Aberdeenshire.
The fund reportedly managed tens of millions of pounds for the wealthy, including Isidore Kerman, an adviser to Robert Maxwell who once owned the West End restaurants Scott’s and J Sheekey, and private bank Leopold Joseph.
The fund, which was established in the 1980s and continues today and “has never paid a penny of tax in the UK on its profits” in 30 years, according to The Guardian.
Blairmore Holdings was incorporated in Panama but based in the Bahamas, where the fund retained up to 50 Caribbean officers each year.
“Their job was to sign paperwork and fill roles such as treasurer and secretary. They included the late Solomon Humes, a lay bishop with the non-denominational Church of God of Prophecy. He acted in various roles including vice-president over a number of years from the mid-1990s,” The Guardian said.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to comment on whether any of Mr Cameron’s family money was still invested in the offshore fund, saying: “That is a private matter.”
Asked for any comment on Mr Cameron’s father’s offshore interests, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman referred to comments made in 2012, adding “I don’t have anything to add to that.”
In 2012, when details of Ian Cameron’s offshore interests first emerged, Number 10 said it was a private matter for the Cameron family.
A spokesman added then: “The Government’s tax reforms are about making sure that some of the richest people in the country pay a decent share of income tax’.”
While there is nothing illegal about using offshore companies, the disclosures have intensified calls for international reform of the way tax havens are able to operate.
HM Revenue and Customs in London has approached the journalists behind the leak for access to the data and said it would “act on it swiftly and appropriately” if there was any wrongdoing.
Mr Cameron has been a vocal advocate of reform and legislation forcing British companies to disclose who owns and benefits from their activities which comes into force in June.
Last year he said: “London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash. The challenge I am laying down for every country today is to root out the rot of corruption – to ensure transparency over what your own companies are doing; require transparency for foreign companies in your country too and work with us to spread this approach to transparency around the world.”
Despite several years of pressure, few UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories – which are said to make up a large part of the tax havens referred to in the papers – have taken concrete action to open up the books.
Asked if Mr Cameron was prepared to legislate if there was continued inaction, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: “He rules nothing out. The work with them continues.”
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who recently met the Panamanian vice president to discuss the issue, insisted “significant progress” was being made.
“It’s always interesting when information like this leaks because it reminds people who are up to no good how fragile and how vulnerable they make themselves by indulging in this kind of activity,” he told the BBC. “This is a key agenda for the Prime Minister.”
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said not enough had been achieved. “Cameron promised and has failed to end tax secrecy and crack down on ‘morally unacceptable’ offshore schemes,” he said. “Real action is now needed.”
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, called for an independent investigation, claiming the British Government had “failed to act until forced to by a scandal” over tax havens.
Mr Farron also urged Mr Cameron to show leadership on the issue of tax transparency and publish his personal tax return.
He said: “When asked in 2015 about his tax affairs the Prime Minister said he was ‘very relaxed’ about providing transparency. He should stick to that approach now and be as open as possible about his finances.
“However this issue is about the sunny places that shady things happen and I again call on the Prime Minister to live up to his promises and end the tax avoidance culture of UK territories.”
Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of the leak, said it had operated “beyond reproach” for 40 years and had never been charged with criminal wrong-doing. Article by