The resignation of prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson is the most spectacular event stemming from the leaked Panama papers. Gunnlaugsson resigned less than two days after the infamous interview, broadcast April 3, where two journalists asked him about Wintris, the offshore company linked to him and his wife. – So far, five others have resigned because of coverage related to the Panama papers.
Noticeably, Gunnlaugsson only resigned as prime minister, not as leader of the Progressive party. Yet, Progressive members have now shown their disdain for party members’ offshore activities: yesterday, the chair of the Progressive party, Hrólfur Ölvisson resigned after a coverage, again based on the Panama papers.
Ölvisson, until then only known to a small circle of Progressives, has made use of more than one offshore company, i.a. to hide ownership. Also, Ölvisson enjoying political connections, benefitted from the type of loans the Icelandic banks issued to well-connected people, i.e. loans with no or light guarantee, collaterals and covenants, essentially leaving all risk with the bank. – Several bankers have been sent to prison for breach of fiduciary duty by issuing such loans.
Ölvisson has had close business relations to Finnur Ingólfsson, a Progressive MP and minister before he became governor of the Central Bank of Icelandi. He did only make a short stop at the CBI, leaving after only two years, in autumn 2002, when the privatisation of the banks was ongoing. Ingólfsson was part of the group, all with ties to the Progressive party, who then bought Búnaðarbanki. When Kaupthing, a much smaller bank, bought Búnaðarbanki, the close ties of the group moved along to Kaupthing.
Also this week, two pension fund directors resigned, Kristján Örn Sigurðsson and Kári Arnór Kárason. Both figure in the Panama papers, both had set up offshore companies, Kárason in 1999 and 2004, Sigurdsson before and after the banking collapse in October 2008. As far as can be seen neither made use of the companies, i.e. the businesses of the companies didn’t evolve as planned.
Vilhjálmur Þorsteinsson is a well-known investor in Iceland. His wealth stems originally from his tech ventures and later fom investments. He was named in the reporting before April 3 and then resigned as a cashier for the Social Democratic Alliance. When further offshore ventures came to light, which he had vehemently denied he had, he resigned from the board of the web-media Kjarninn, which he has invested in.
The first one to resign, even before Gunnlaugsson, was Júlíus Vífill Ingvarsson, a Reykjavík councillor from the Independence party. Ingvarsson set up an offshore company as late as 2014. He went public with it after having been asked about it by journalists from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, resigning at the same time. His motivation for the company was that he wanted to set up a private pension saving fund although it’s impossible to set up such a fund and define it as a private pension plan.
The leader of Independence party and minister of finance Bjarni Benediktsson was exposed as an owner of an offshore company to encompass property investment with two other Icelanders in Dubai. However, he has resisted demands to resign, he still enjoys the support of his party, which following Gunnlaugsson’s resignation made a significant gain in the opinion polls, jumping fom 20% to 27%.
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