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Panama Perils

How the Panama Papers Could Make David Cameron Resign

Demonstrators hold placards during a protest outside Downing Street in Whitehall, central London, Britain April 9, 2016. Neil Hall / Reuters

Last week’s release of leaked offshore banking documents, known as the Panama Papers, has dealt a blow to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Last Thursday, he finally admitted that he had personally profited from an offshore trust established by his now-deceased father, Ian Cameron, in the 1980s. After several days of stalling, the prime minister acknowledged that he held shares in an account call the Blairmore Investment Trust from 1997 to January 2010, shortly before he entered Downing Street.

Cameron’s statement on Thursday marked the fifth separate explanation of his financial affairs in only four days. He hopes that his latest pronouncement, along with the unprecedented decision for a UK prime minister to publicly release key details of his tax returns on Saturday, will satisfy public curiosity about his financial affairs. Cameron will also make an announcement in front of Parliament today, in which is expected to announce a new task force that will investigate the financial affairs of UK companies implicated in the Panama Papers, to be led by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency. 

But even though Cameron appears to have done nothing illegal, scrutiny over his involvement may intensify. He might not be alone, either: inquiries into the tax affairs of other members of the Cabinet, especially Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, could be next. And with the British Parliament returning from Easter recess this week, the Cameron must manage this issue while also addressing a series of wider challenges, including the June 23 EU referendum and a crisis in the UK steel industry. In other words, Cameron is in for probably the biggest fight of his political career—one that may get the better of him as early as June given that he will probably be forced to resign if Britain votes to leave the European Union against his wishes.

BAD TIMING

The release of the Panama Papers comes during some of the most difficult weeks of Cameron’s six-year term in office.

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