There has widespread dismay in Iceland at the trial over ex-PM Geir Haarde – but not everyone is dismayed for the same reasons. Some are irritated that politicians and civil servants generally claimed nothing could have been done to prevent the collapse of the banks and that bankers can’t see they have done anything wrong. Others are upset that only one politician is on trial – there should have been more… or none.
When asked why Kaupthing had failed, the bank’s former CEO Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson said straightforwardly it had failed because of the Emergency Bill – the legislation passed on Monday Oct. 6 2008 to prevent a total chaos in Iceland as the banks were collapsing. Sigurdsson’s view is, to say the very least, quite narrow. On Friday Oct. 3 the Bank of England had already taken action against Kaupthing by taking over all new deposits to Kaupthing. Sigurdsson didn’t mention this action, which marked the beginning of actions against Kaupthing in the UK.
It needn’t come as any surprise that no one accepts any responsibility – that was already clear from the SIC report, ia based on extensive interviews with many of those involved. This tone of “it wasn’t me” or “nothing could be done” is abundantly clear from the quotes in the report.
It’s unlikely that any of the witnesses took much joy in bearing witness. Many of them will still feel uneasy about the past – and their future. Several of the witnesses at the Haarde trial have already been indicted by the Office of the Special Prosecutor – Sigurdsson is one of them – and/or are being sued by the Winding-up Boards of the banks and others might face lawsuits and charges. Everything they say will be coloured by their situation. Many of them have most likely rehearsed their answers with their lawyers.
Complaints that the trial is a farce seem to rest on a wholly unrealistic understanding of the nature of the trial. The trial is held because Haarde is accused of failures in office. The charges are built on a documentation of alleged failures. The trial is an act where the prosecutor seeks to clarify the documents and Haarde’s defence lawyer seeks to defend his client. The High Court Judges will come to their conclusion in 4-5 weeks.
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