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Sunday, 10 April 2016

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Post Panama Papers:

Cameron under scrutiny

The Panama Papers is a gift that just keeps on giving to the international press. Breaking this week, history’s biggest leak, from the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, has provided scandal after scandal for the world’s media outlets to get their teeth into.

The revelations about the secret accounts held by some of the world’s richest and most powerful people have already claimed one scalp: Iceland’s now former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíd Gunnlaugsson.

No fewer than 12 current and former world leaders are named in the documents and many more are implicated by a web of personal connections.

However, in their implications for governments, not all scandals are equal; some are more equal than others. In more autocratic regimes, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, and in countries like Russia where Vladimir Putin, despite the rumours of his hidden financial empire, is nigh on unassailable, the revelations of the Panama Papers are likely to pass with little incident.

It is in countries where democratic process and press freedom are strongest that leaders connected to the scandal are likely to feel the most heat.

One world leader who will be feeling more pressure than most is Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron.

Although he is not named in the Papers, the fact his late father established an investment fund which never paid UK taxes because it was run from the Bahamas, and questions over whether he benefited from it personally, have caused no end of embarrassment for the British Prime Minister. 

Cameron’s indirect involvement would be a side story to the Panama Papers if it weren’t for the fact that Britain, through its network of Overseas Territories – such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands –

and Crown Dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – is responsible for some of the world’s most notorious tax havens.

As such, in light of the current uproar surrounding financial secrecy, few people bear a heavier burden of responsibility to act than the British Prime Minister. 

The UK has made some movements towards getting its house in order, and it is keen to be seen to be acting to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion, but one thing the Panama Papers make clear is that it has a long way to go.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and with Cameron hosting a global anti-corruption summit in London next month, the ball is in his court. The world will be watching to see how he plays it.

Salman Shaheen is the Editor-in-Chief of the World Weekly

-theworldweekly

 

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