Panama leaks: Iceland’s PM faces calls for snap election

Reykjavik, April 4 (IANS) Iceland’s prime minister is this week expected to face calls in parliament for a snap election after the Panama Papers revealed he is among several leading politicians around the world with links to secretive companies in offshore tax havens, the Guardian reported.

The financial affairs of Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and his wife have come under scrutiny because of details revealed in documents from a Panamanian law firm that helps clients protect their wealth in secretive offshore tax regimes. The files from Mossack Fonseca form the biggest ever data leak to journalists.

Opposition leaders have been discussing a motion calling for a general election — in effect a confidence vote in the prime minister.

On Monday, Gunnlaugsson was expected to face allegations from opponents that he has hidden a major financial conflict of interest from voters ever since he was elected an MP seven years ago.

The former prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir said Gunnlaugsson would have to resign if he could not regain public trust quickly, calling on him to “give a straightforward account of all the facts of the matter”.

Former finance minister Steingrímur Sigfússon told the Guardian: “We can’t permit this. Iceland would simply look like a banana republic. No one is saying he used his position as prime minister to help this offshore company, but the fact is you shouldn’t leave yourself open to a conflict of interest. And nor should you keep it secret.”

Leaked papers show Gunnlaugsson co-owned a company called Wintris Inc, set up in 2007 on the Caribbean island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, to hold investments with his wealthy partner, later wife, Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir.

The couple were living in Britain at the time and had been advised to set up a company in the tax haven in order to hold and invest substantial proceeds from the sale of Pálsdóttir’s share in her family’s business back in Iceland.

Gunnlaugsson owned a 50 percent stake in Wintris for more than two years, then transferred it to Pálsdóttir, who held the other 50 percent, for one dollar. The prime minister’s office now says his shareholding was an error and “it had always been clear to both of them that the prime minister’s wife owned the assets”. Once drawn to the couple’s attention in late 2009, the error was corrected.

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