Iceland’s prime minister was under pressure to quit today after the leak of the “Panama Papers” tax documents showed he and his wife used an offshore firm to allegedly hide million-dollar investments. A former prime minister urged Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson to resign after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism yesterday released 11.5 million financial records detailing the holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders.
They included Gunnlaugsson of Iceland’s right-wing Progressive Party and his wife Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir, as well as criminals and celebrities.
“The prime minister should immediately resign,” former Social Democratic prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said in a message posted on Facebook.
More than 16,000 Icelanders have also signed a petition demanding his resignation, while the opposition has said it will seek a vote of no confidence in parliament, likely to be held this week.
According to the documents, Gunnlaugsson and Palsdottir purchased the offshore company Wintris Inc. in the British Virgin Islands in December 2007. He transferred his shares to his wife in 2009 for the symbolic sum of one dollar.
Gunnlaugsson yesterday denounced the release of the documents and called it a witch hunt against him and his wife.
“She (Palsdottir) has been adamant to pay taxes on it (Wintris) to the Icelandic society rather than saving money by paying taxes abroad.
“She has neither utilised tax havens nor can you say that her company is an offshore company in the sense that it pays taxes abroad rather than in Iceland,” Gunnlaugsson said on his website.
Gunnlaugsson was elected in 2013 by promising full transparency but he has been in the hot seat since his wife acknowledged the existence of the company in mid-March.
In an interview with Swedish public broadcaster SVT that aired yesterday in Iceland, Gunnlaugsson stormed out and refused to answer any questions when pushed to explain the nature of the offshore company. “There have not been any of my assets hidden anywhere,” Gunnlaugsson said. “It’s like you are accusing me of something,” he said.
His spokesperson told SVT that the couple had followed all Icelandic law and had declared all income and property since 2008. Despite media requests, his tax records had not yet been publicly released.
“People should not have a prime minister they are ashamed of... The prime minister expressed a distrust of the currency and the Icelandic economy by putting money in a tax haven,” said Sigurdardottir, the former prime minister.