MP Róbert Marshall, Bright Future, believes there is reason to issue a declaration of no confidence in PM Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, following the revelation that his wife owns a company registered in the tax haven Tortola, the British Virgin Islands, and his unwillingness to discuss the issue. A motion of no confidence has been discussed in every party in opposition, according to RÚV.
Róbert told RÚV, “We’re in a situation where it’s come to light that we have a prime minister in the country, while the nation is subject to capital controls, who has his reserves abroad. Who speaks for a currency for the whole nation, and calls it the best in the world, but owns possessions in a foreign currency.”
Sigmundur’s wife, Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir, posted a message on her Facebook page March 15 revealing that she owns a company, Wintris Inc., which manages her family inheritance. Sigmundur has refused to answer question about the issue, both in Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, and in media.
MPs of all parties in opposition repeatedly asked to discuss the matter with Sigmundur in Alþingi on Friday. They state he has kept information secret and needs to answer for the secrecy. They want answers before Alþingi goes on Easter break. RÚV reported last week that Wintris, Inc. registered a claim of about ISK 500 million (USD 4 million, EUR 3.5 million) against the assets of the bankruptcy estates of the failed Icelandic banks.
Rules in Alþingi regarding registration of the finances of MPs do not include investment through mutual funds or investment funds. MPs can thus possess large amounts in such funds without listing those on Alþingi’s website. The rules are meant to give the public information about MPs’ finances and increase transparency, RÚV reports.
New rules of ethics, passed in Alþingi last week, do not directly affect this listing of financial interests, although they indicate that MPs should avoid “conflict between public interests on one hand and financial or other personal interests, or those of their family, on the other. If an MP can’t avoid those, those interests should be revealed.”
MP Vilhjálmur Bjarnason, Independence Party, told RÚV that revelations about Wintris Inc. have been very inconvenient for the Independence Party, the prime minister’s coalition party, which, he claims, was unaware of the company.
Vilhjálmur Árnason, chair of the board of the Center for Ethics at the University of Iceland, has criticized Sigmundur’s failure to reveal the existence of the company, saying it’s a question of credibility. He claims the PM’s handling of the matter has resulted in a loss of credibility toward the public and toward politicians.
A nationally known columnist, Guðmundur Andri Thorsson, writes a column in Fréttablaðið today, discussing this loss of credibility. He wonders what else Sigmundur has kept secret from the public.
He writes, “Sigmundur has carefully created an image of himself as a guard for national interests, of him who backs Iceland, Icelandic knowledge, Icelandic hard work, yes, the Icelandic króna, which is the strongest currency in the world when taken good care of with capital controls.
That story is now in turmoil. It’s been revealed that the couple doesn’t trust the Icelandic króna when it comes to getting a return on their wealth.”
Guðmundur Andri continues, “We’ll listen differently to the minister’s speeches than before. The next time Sigmundur Davíð gives a speech, saying ‘We Icelanders,’ it could be a matter of opinion, and people might ask: Shouldn´t he rather say, ‘You Icelanders’?”