Iceland’s Prime Minister Resigns Over Panama Papers Controversy

Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.

Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson attends a session of Parliament in the country’s capital city, Reykjavik, on Monday. Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images | NPR

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, current prime minister of Iceland, has resigned from his post after leaked documents linked him with illegal offshore accounts. Gunnlaugsson’s deputy in the Iceland Progressive Party, Sigurdur Ingi Johansson, will take over as prime minister until the next elections are held in 2017. Johansson currently serves as Iceland’s fisheries and agriculture minister.

The leaked documents, called the “Panama Papers,” consist of 11.5 million documents are connected to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The documents, which span forty years, have been investigated by journalists for the past year. This week, those files were leaked by an anonymous source to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and the information in the papers has now been picked up by news outlets around the world. The documents reveal that hundreds of public figures and politicians around the world have secret offshore bank accounts. In addition to Gunnlaugsson, close friends of Russian president Vladimir Putin are implicated, as well as many others.

Despite an initial statement that he would not consider a resignation, Gunnlaugsson gave in to national outcry and announced that he would leave office. Gunnlaugsson allegedly shares ownership of a holding company registered in the British Virgin Islands through his wife, information which was not properly disclosed to the authorities. Similarly, Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina, also did not disclose links to another company.

Thousands of protestors marched outside of the Icelandic Parliament this week in uproar over Gunnlaugsson’s secret accounts. They called for his resignation, and many citizens took his transgression personally.

“He told us to believe in Iceland,” said Sigmundur Halldorsson, a web developer. “But at the same time he decided Iceland was not a very good place to keep his money.”

For its part, Mossack Fonseca denies any wrongdoing. “Our industry is not particularly well understood by the public, and unfortunately this series of articles will only serve to deepen that confusion,” the firm said in a statement.

The ICIJ promises to release the full list of companies and individuals implicated in the Panama Papers by early May.

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