British Prime Minister David Cameron. (AP)
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE country’s financial services sector is in the spotlight after it was revealed that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s father avoided taxes for his investment fund by moving it to the Bahamas and employing scores of Bahamians - including a lay bishop.
The revelation was included in the “Panama Papers”, a massive data leak that has rocked countries around the world with the offshore dealings of the world’s wealthy elite ranging from prime ministers and former heads of state to famous actors and sports icons.
Financial Services minister Hope Strachan said the government took the data leak very seriously, and called a press conference yesterday to undercore the industry’s compliance with major regulatory body OECD and US regime requirement FACTA.
The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper, reported that Mr Cameron has now come under fire to divulge whether his family’s money was still invested in the fund that his father - the late Ian Cameron - served as a director of until shortly before his death in 2010.
Incorporated in Panama but based in the Bahamas in the 1980s, Blairmore Holdings Inc retained up to 50 Caribbean officers each year, according to reports.
“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 report read.
“Through the Bahamas branches of Coutts and later SG Hambros, Blairmore retained dozens of local residents. There is no suggestion this arrangement was illegal and it was used by other offshore funds at the time. The signatories were authorised to perform complex financial tasks. They could, company minutes state, “sell or buy any stocks, shares, annuities” and even “precious metals”,” the report read.
However, the documents purport that big investment decisions were taken in the UK. The report read: “Board meetings were held every year in Nassau and Switzerland, often in the five-star Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva. While the Europeans regularly jetted out to the Caribbean, there is little evidence of travel in the opposite direction, raising questions about how much the Bahamas directors contributed to strategy and decision making.”
According to reports, Blairmore moved from Panama to Ireland in 2012 and still exists today, with more than $31m (£22m) under management. The Guardian confirmed that the investment fund has never paid tax in the UK on its profits.
The data leak of some 11 million documents by a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, to a German news agency, Suddeutsche Zeitung, is being described as the biggest leak in the history of journalism.
It has sparked widespread calls for investigations, increased crackdown on financial services and even large scale protests in Iceland as its Prime Minister was revealed to have hidden offshore assets.
Several countries have launched investigations from the data obtained in the leak, such as the United States and France.
The Panama Papers contain nearly 40 years of records and will be made available to the public next month.