News outlets reported Tuesday that the prime minister of Iceland has resigned in the aftermath of the global scandal building over a Panamanian law firm’s leaked documents.
Mass protests erupted in Reykjavik on Monday as thousands took to the streets to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson after documents revealed that Gunnlaugsson and two cabinet members owned secret offshore companies worth millions.
Members of the crowd descended upon the square of the Parliament House on Monday, showing their anger by hurling eggs, bananas, and Icelandic yogurt at the building. Further protests were organized for today
These leaked documents, known as the ‘Panama Papers’, shed light into the secret financial activities of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful, exposing a system centered around offshore companies where crime and corruption are widespread.
Iceland’s PM has been the first political figure to succumb to pressure over information in the leaked documents.
The Panama Papers were given to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them on Sunday to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a multinational coalition of media outlets. They contain over 11.5 million documents such as financial and legal records related to the clients of a secretive Panamanian law firm, Mossack Foneca. The clients include 215,000 companies and 14,153 private clients, many of whom are linked to politicians, sports figures, business executives and celebrities.
The documents span four decades of Mossack Foneca’s activities as the firm which created secret shell companies and offshore accounts to hide the wealth of the super rich.
Other notable figures implicated in the Panama Papers include leading associates of Vladimir Putin, the president of Ukraine and members of FIFA’s ethics committee. Aside from Gunnlaugsson’s connections to money laundering, President Mauricio Macri of Argentina is alleged to have failed to disclose links to a shell company. Reports say 12 current or former heads of state and 61 of their family members are involved in the scandal along with 128 other politicians and public officials.
The leaked documents reveal how Gunnlaugsson failed to disclose that his wife had an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands in her name. The company, Wintris Inc., owned millions of dollars in bonds from banks that had collapsed during Iceland’s 2008 financial meltdown.
Gunnlaugsson violated parliamentary ethics by not disclosing his connections to Wintris when he entered parliament in 2009. He campaigned for his position in 2013 as the leader who could put national interest over financial interest; however, as Wintris Inc. claimed $4.2 million from the failed banks, he himself was responsible for brokering the deal. His ownership of the company put him squarely in a conflict of interest not lost on the Icelandic public.