UK PM Cameron says he bungled admission of offshore fund

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Protesters call for the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron outside the Conservative party's spring forum in central London.

Protesters call for the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron outside the Conservative party's spring forum in central London. (Photo: John Stillwell/PA via AP)

British Prime Minister David Cameron conceded Saturday that he had bungled his acknowledgement of his investment in an offshore fund, a controversy that drove thousands out onto London's streets to denounce him and the Panama law firm involved.

Cameron drew laughs and applause from a sympathetic audience of Conservative Party activists as he opened a speech in London with a mea culpa.

"Well, it's not been a great week," he deadpanned. "I could have handled this better. I know there are lessons to learn, and I will learn them. And don't blame No. 10 Downing Street or nameless advisers. Blame me."

It was Cameron's first public appearance since his admission Thursday night that he had owned shares in a Bahamas-based trust from 1997 to 2010, ending four days of obfuscating statements issued through aides.

The prime minister is one of scores of political leaders, celebrities and sports stars who have been linked to shell companies and investment trusts following last weekend's massive data breach at the Panama City-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in registering offshore companies.

Cameron has made the closure of global tax loopholes a focal point of his government, but rejected charges of hypocrisy on the issue.

"This government that I lead will go on very clearly, very doggedly, very determinedly making sure that we crack down on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance," he said.

Outside the Conservatives' lavish event, dozens of police formed a human barrier as thousands of left-wing protesters demanded Cameron's ouster. Many protesters waved placards portraying Cameron as an out-of-touch elitist, while others held signs mocking the Panama firm with the slogan "Mossack Fonseca: Because taxes are for poor people."

Cameron faces mounting pressure from opposition lawmakers to reveal the full extent of his past investment in offshore trusts, particularly those run by his late father, Ian, a millionaire stockbroker who placed much off his savings in island tax havens.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and others say they will press Cameron on the issue when Parliament reconvenes Monday.

The leak of 11.5 million documents from four decades of Mossack Fonseca files identified Ian Cameron as a client.

David Cameron said in a Thursday television interview that he owned shares in his father's Bahama trust, but sold that stake for a 19,000 pound ($30,500) profit along with all his other unspecified shareholdings shortly before becoming prime minister in 2010. His father died four months after he gained office.

In Saturday's speech, Cameron reiterated plans to make public his recent tax returns to show that he paid all legally due taxes on that Bahamas investment. He has declined to answer questions on whether he made other offshore investments.

Labour lawmakers already have demanded that Cameron publish details of all his investment holdings since he became Conservative leader in 2005.

Corbyn said he would publish his own tax returns "very soon and there'll be no surprises there."

-AP

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