One of the more prominent names featured in the Panama Papers disclosure is that of Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. The reason is that according to the leaked files, Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and his wife secretly owned a company called Wintris 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.
As Guardian reports, the couple were living in the UK 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% stake in Wintris for more than two years, then transferred it to Pálsdóttir, who held the other 50%, 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.
Towards the end of Gunnlaugsson’s time as a Wintris shareholder, having returned to Iceland, he was elected to parliament as leader of the Progressive party.
Gunnlaugsson, who became prime minister four years later, never disclosed his Wintris shares on Iceland’s parliamentary register of MPs’ financial interests.
As the Guardian also reported earlier, in the video clip below, PM Gunnlaugsson walks out of an interview with Swedish television company SVT. Gunnlaugsson is asked about Wintris, which he says has been fully declared to the Icelandic tax authority. Gunnlaugsson says he is not prepared to answer such questions and decides to discontinue the interview, saying: ‘What are you trying to make up here? This is totally inappropriate.’
The prime minister and his wife then rushed out separate public statements in Icelandic condemning reporters’ intrusions into their private business matters.
Both stressed their financial interests had always been properly disclosed to the Icelandic tax authorities. The Guardian has seen no evidence to suggest tax avoidance, evasion or any dishonest financial gain on the part of Gunnlaugsson, Pálsdóttir or Wintris.
But it may be too late.
As the Guardian adds, the 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 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 this weekend been discussing a motion calling for a general election – in effect a confidence vote in the prime minister.
On Monday, Gunnlaugsson is 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.
As Iceland's Visir reports, quoting a facebook post by Iceland's former PM Johanna Sigurdardottir, she is calling upon Gunnlaugssonto resign to "prevent a social uprising", and calling on him to “give a straightforward account of all the facts of the matter”. Google translated:
Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said debt his people to leave immediately and prevent an uprising in society.
Johanna Sigurdardottir, a former prime minister, says that the Prime Minister must immediately resign and the government all to leave. The Facebook post her she says that it is not just the credibility of the nation to the international community that is at stake - but will people never feel what leaders have been proven to be. It has formed a real breaches of confidentiality between the Government and the people of the country. Riots and anger in the community will not be weaker this collapse. Furthermore, says Johanna society will not have the Prime Minister that it needs to be ashamed, Prime Minister of the obvious has become the deception and dishonesty, the Prime Minister described was mistrust on the currency and the Icelandic economy by hiding their money in tax shelter, the Prime Minister does not seem to understand what morality is and wants to get yourself set up its own protocol, which is currently placed in the group with the perverse power brokers in the world. Prime Minister owes his people to leave immediately and prevent an uprising in society.
The 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.”
Essentially, Gunnlaugsson political career is over, and the only question is whether Goldman has already picked a banker to replace him.