Iceland’s PM resigns over ‘Panama Papers’

The Panama Papers showed the premier’s wife owned an offshore company with big claims on Iceland’s banks, an undeclared conflict of interest for Gunnlaugsson. (File photo: Reuters)

Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned on Tuesday, becoming the first casualty of leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm which have shone a spotlight on the offshore wealth of politicians and public figures worldwide.

The Panama Papers showed the premier’s wife owned an offshore company with big claims on Iceland’s banks, an undeclared conflict of interest for Gunnlaugsson, infuriating many who hurled eggs and bananas in street protests calling for him to step down.

The banks collapsed as the global financial crisis hit in 2008 and many Icelanders blame politicians for not reining in their debt-fueled binge and averting a deep recession.

Gunnlaugsson quit ahead of a planned vote of no-confidence, hours after asking the president to dissolve parliament, a move which would almost certainly have led to a new election.

The deputy leader of his Progressive Party, Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, told reporters the party will suggest to its coalition partners in the Independence Party that he himself should become the new prime minister.

Brief: Panama Papers

The more than 11.5 million documents, leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, have caused public outrage over how the world’s rich and powerful are able to stash their wealth and avoid taxes while many people suffer austerity and hardship.

Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in setting up offshore companies, denies any wrongdoing. On Tuesday, the Panamanian government sought to defend the country’s reputation.

Panama President Juan Carlos Varela’s chief of staff told a news conference that the government could retaliate after France announced it would put the Central American country back on its blacklist of uncooperative tax jurisdictions. The official, Alvaro Aleman, said that no Panamanian company had been found to have committed a crime.

He added: “We are not going to allow Panama to be used as a scapegoat by third parties. Each country (implicated) is responsible.” The president had instructed the foreign ministry to contact all of the dozens of countries implicated, Aleman said.

Among those named in the documents are friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the leaders of China, Britain and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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