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Iceland Mag

Politics

Cloud of Panama Papers: Prime Minister refuses to discuss tax-haven report with Parliament

By Staff

  • Bjarni Benediktsson (left) and Katrín Jakobsdóttir (right) The New Prime Minister has come under heavy fire for his refusal to answer the questions of a parliamentary committee about a report on tax havens. Photo/Anton

The Prime Minister of Iceland and chairman of the Conservative Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson, has declined a request by the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs and Trade to answer questions about a report on tax evasion by Icelanders who have hidden assets in offshore accounts in tax-havens.

The chairwoman of the opposition Left-Green Movement, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has said that Bjarni's decision and his justifications for declining the request are surprising and unacceptable. Katrín had requested that Bjarni appear in front of the committee. In an announcement on Facebook Katrín said that "unacceptable" that government ministers think appearing in media interviews is a valid substitute to answering questions from parliamentary committees.

Read more: Analysis: The clouds of the Panama Papers hang over new coalition government

Unacceptable answers which undermine parliament

Smári McCarthy

Smári McCarthy Anti-corruption activist was elected to Parliament on October 29 as Pirate Party MP Photo/Vísir

Bjarni claims that he has already answered all questions and explained the matter in the media. Smári McCarthy, one of the leaders of the anti-establishment Pirate Party, told the local news site Vísir that these answers were unacceptable, and that Bjarni was undermining the role of parliament in the system of checks and balances.

The revelations in the Panama Papers caused an uproar in Iceland, as the wife of then Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was revealed to have hidden assets in a tax haven, and Sigmundur Davíð caught lying about the matter. Bjarni Benediktsson, then Finance Minister, was also named in the Panama Papers.

Previous answers have been contradictory
In order to clear the air and reveal the extent of the problem of Icelandic assets in tax havens, a report was ordered for the Ministry of Finance. The ministry received the completed report on September 13, but Bjarni failed to disclose the report to either the public or parliament until last week, keeping it secret until well after the October 29 elections. He has offered confusing and contradictory explanations as to why he chose to keep the report under wraps.

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