In Wake of Panama Papers Obama Says Tax Evasion 'Big Global Problem'

In first statements since the leaked documents were made public, U.S. president defends international community's commitment to combating illicit tax havens.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the White House, April 5, 2016.

DPA - Reports about rampant use of tax havens are a reminder that "tax avoidance is a big global problem," U.S. President Barack Obama said, in his first comments on revelations contained in the so-called Panama Papers.

He says combating illicit tax havens has been an important topic of international meetings.

"There's always going to be some illicit movement of funds around the world, but we shouldn't make it easy," the U.S. president said. "We shouldn't make it legal to engage in transactions just to avoid taxes."

Obama also defended the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions, saying: "We know the sanctions regime is strong, because Iran wouldn't have, for example, cut a deal to end their nuclear programme in the absence of strong sanctions enforcement."