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UK PM Facing Tax Credibility Crisis as Overseas Territories Stand Firm

© REUTERS / Leon NealBritish Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech on the European Union at the British Museum in central London, Britain May 9, 2016.
British Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech on the European Union at the British Museum in central London, Britain May 9, 2016. - Sputnik International
British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a credibility crisis on the issue of tax evasion ahead of this week's anti-corruption summit in London, with some of the UK's overseas territories resisting calls to make fresh changes on the issue of financial secrecy.

An activist takes part in a demonstration outside the European Commission (EC) headquarters ahead of statements by the EC on the effectiveness of existing measures against tax evasion and money-laundering in light of the recent Panama Paper revelations, in Brussels, Belgium, April 12, 2016. - Sputnik International
'They Serve No Useful Purpose': World Leaders Challenged to End Tax Havens
While some of the overseas territories conceded some ground in the wake of April's release of the Panama Papers and agreed to make business information available to a central register of ownership, accessible only by UK law enforcement agencies, they have so far rejected calls to sign up to a public central registry of beneficial ownership.

The release of the Panama leaks has once again put the issue of tax evasion and tax havens back in the spotlight, with much attention turning to the UK, and in particular its overseas territories, of which many are tax havens.

While Cameron has tried to promote his government as world leaders on the issue, his failure to convince the overseas territories and crown dependencies to fall in line with UK policy and be more transparent with tax affairs has led to widespread international criticism.

The Panama leaks also revealed the extent to which the UK is at the heart of global tax evasion, with more than half of the offshore companies set-up by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca located in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

The BVI, along with other crown dependencies, have rejected calls to join an automatic exchange of information initiative agreed upon last month, featuring the UK, Germany, France, Italy and more than two dozen other countries.

The development represents an embarrassing situation for Cameron, who is under pressure from the public and other world leaders to ensure the UK's overseas dependencies meet international standards on tax.

'Fantastically Corrupt' Countries Attending Summit

The overseas territories' commitment to significant reform on the issue of financial security remains unknown. While representatives from the Cayman Islands have confirmed they will attend this week's anti-corruption summit in London, the BVI government has yet to announce whether it will send officials to the event.

Leaders from more than 40 different countries, along with representatives from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are expected to attend the London Anti-Corruption Summit, where much discussion will center on the issue of tax havens and tax evasion.

While the event is aimed at tackling global corruption, David Cameron was caught on camera telling Queen Elizabeth that representatives from some "fantastically corrupt" countries were due to attend the summit.

"We had a very successful cabinet meeting this morning, talking about our anti-corruption summit," Cameron was heard telling the queen in a video feed captured by broadcaster ITN.

"We have got the Nigerians — actually we have got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan — possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world."

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