Iceland’s Prime Minister Steps Down After Panama Papers Leaks

By Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir | Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson became the first major casualty of the Panama Papers revelations.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson became the first major casualty of the Panama Papers revelations, stepping down on Tuesday after leaked files showed his wife owned an offshore firm with big claims on the country’s collapsed banks.

The ruling Progressive Party’s deputy leader, Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, who holds the fisheries and agriculture portfolio, told reporters Gunnlaugsson was stepping down and that the party had proposed to their junior coalition partner, the Independence Party, that he become the new prime minister himself.

The two parties discussed the matter on Tuesday evening but no agreement was reached. Talks are expected to continue.

The leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm that specializes in setting up offshore companies have shone a light on the finances of politicians and public figures from around the world, causing public outrage over how the powerful are able to hide money and avoid tax.

Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson speaks to media outside Iceland president's residence in Reykjavik, Iceland, April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Sigtryggur Johannsson
Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson speaks to media outside Iceland president’s residence in Reykjavik, Iceland, April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Sigtryggur Johannsson

Adding confusion to the political crisis, a statement emailed on Tuesday night by government spokesman Sigurdur Jonsson said Gunnlaugsson had suggested that Johannsson take over as prime minister “for an unspecified amount of time.”

“The prime minister has not resigned and will continue to serve as chairman of the Progressive Party,” it said.

An Iceland government spokesman has said the claims against Iceland’s collapsed banks held by the firm owned by the prime minister’s wife – in which he also temporarily held a stake – totalled more than 500 million Icelandic crowns ($4.1 million). Gunnlaugson has said his wife’s assets were taxed in Iceland.

His decision to step down came after thousands of Icelanders gathered in front of parliament on Monday, hurling eggs and bananas and demanding the departure of the leader of the center-right coalition government, which has been in power since 2013.

Opposition politicians, pushing for fresh general elections, also filed a motion of no-confidence in Gunnlaugson and the government on Monday. The parliamentary vote could still take place this week and could trigger elections if the motion is carried.

People demonstrate against Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 4, 2016 after a leak of documents by so-called Panama Papers stoked anger over his wife owning a tax haven-based company with large claims on the country's collapsed banks. REUTERS/Stigtryggur Johannsson
People demonstrate against Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 4, 2016 after a leak of documents by so-called Panama Papers stoked anger over his wife owning a tax haven-based company with large claims on the country’s collapsed banks. REUTERS/Stigtryggur Johannsson

 

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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