London: Jeremy Corbyn has been forced to clarify his comments after appearing to suggest the Queen should apologise for her private estate investing in two offshore funds as revealed by a mass leak of 13.4 million documents exposing individuals investing in offshore tax havens.
The documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers and coming two years after the leaking of the Panama Papers, were obtained by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The BBC's Panorama program says the Queens estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, invested in a fund in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The Queen is not accused of avoiding paying tax and voluntarily pays taxes on her estate.
But the Labour leader told Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) annual conference that anyone using offshore accounts in tax haven countries has been revealed should think about what impact their actions have on society.
"Well, anyone that is putting money into tax havens in order to avoid taxation in Britain, and obviously investigations have to take place, should do things; not just apologise for it but also recognise what it does to our society.
"Because if a very wealthy person wants to avoid taxation in Britain and therefore put money in a tax haven somewhere, who loses? Schools, hospitals, housing - all those public services...and the rest of the population have to pay to cover the deficit created by that," he said.
"We simply have to avoid the culture that there's something clever about avoiding taxation, taxation is what gives us ambulances, gives us fire attendants, gives us safety in our lives.
Mr Corbyn was responding to a question by the UK Telegraph's Christopher Hope who asked whether he believed the Queen should apologise for the Paradise Paper revelations about her private estate. His office later told the British press the Labour leader did not single out the Queen with his remarks but thought "anyone who puts money into a tax haven to avoid paying tax should acknowledge the damage it does to society".
Speaking in his prepared speech earlier, Mr Corbyn called for the Paradise Papers to serve as a turning point that would lead to change.
"We need a full public inquiry into tax avoidance and evasion, on and offshore, a register of companies and trusts, and who benefits from them, and a new tax enforcement unit in HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and an end to public contracts for companies abusing the system."
Prime Minister Theresa May also addressed the same conference. She did not raise the issue in her speech but, in response to a question, brushed aside queries about a public register.
"HMRC is already able to see more information about the ownership of shell companies, for example, so that they can ensure people are paying their tax," she said. "We want people to pay the tax that is due."
Donald Trump's Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also addressed the CBI conference. The Paradise Papers revealed he held investments in a company whose major client, Sibur, a Russian petrochemical giant, is partly owned by two Russian shareholders facing US sanctions. Unlike Mr Corbyn and Mrs May, he did not take questions from the audience.
The Paradise Papers were taken mostly from the offshore law firm Appleby. Similarly, the 2015 Panama Papers were taken from Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca,