British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013 personally intervened to prevent the UK from being pulled into an EU-wide crackdown on offshore tax havens, according to new reporting.
Cameron—who finally admitted Thursday that he had profited from his late father's offshore trust, which was set up through the firm at the center of the massive Panama Papers leak—in 2013 sent a letter to the then-president of the European Council urging him to treat trusts differently from companies in anti-laundering rules. The Panama Papers revealed that Ian Cameron's trust, Blaimore Holdings, had avoided paying UK taxes for more than 30 years.
The EU had planned to publish a central register of the owners of offshore accounts in an effort to curb tax avoidance when Cameron sent the letter.
"It is clearly important we recognize the important differences between companies and trusts," Cameron wrote to Herman van Rompuy. "This means that the solution for addressing the potential misuse of companies—such as central public registries—may well not be appropriate generally."
Instead, he argued, the EU should allow trust owners to keep their identities secret from the public and reveal them only to global tax authorities in exchange for information.
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Cameron's intervention in the crackdown was revealed as he continues to come under scrutiny for his personal stake in the trust, which he sold just before taking office in 2010. In what the Guardian noted was a "specially arranged interview," Cameron on Thursday said he did not know whether the £300,000 he had inherited from his father before his death had benefited from tax haven status.
Asked earlier this week if his family still had a stake in the account, a Downing Street spokesperson responded, "This is a private matter." Cameron's office then released several statements insisting that neither the prime minister nor his family would benefit from offshore accounts in the future.
Those promises rang hollow to the Labour party, which said Thursday that Cameron "completely undermined" his administration's claim to be tough on tax evaders.
"Another day and another story emerges which exposes what the Conservative party really thinks in its heart of hearts about tackling tax avoidance," said Labour's shadow Treasury minister Richard Burgon. "The prime minister can't raise a finger to save our steel industry but at the drop of a hat he can personally intervene to undermine EU efforts to clamp down on tax avoidance."
"When things like this come out from the very top of the Conservative party, it completely undermines anything they have said previously on this major issue," Burgon said.