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Silence from Presidential Residence

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Silence from Presidential Residence

Bessastaðir.

Bessastaðir, the presidential residence. Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

“What’s our reputation in the world around us?” asked President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson at the press conference at Bessastaðir on April 18, when he announced his decision to run for the sixth presidential term, despite having declared on January 1 that he would not be running. The decision was made following the resignation of then Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, whose connections to an offshore company through his wife, made public in the Panama Papers, forced him to resign.

Now, in light of recent revelations about the president’s connections to offshore companies through First Lady Dorrit Moussaieff, Vísir points out that these words have a new meaning to them. That day, Ólafur said those who urged him to run for office once more found it necessary “to try to ensure through my contribution in coming weeks and months that our reputation in the world remained strong.”

According to Vísir, “It’s evident that Ólafur Ragnar’s position as a powerful spokesman for the country and the nation has weakened considerably since the information regarding his wife’s finances surfaced. The couple has not been willing to grant media requests for interviews regarding the matter.”

In response to a question from Stöð 2 yesterday, the president said he does not have, neither now nor before, knowledge about the financial connections of his wife. He also stressed he had always been critical of offshore companies and tax havens and that he had for decades promoted a just and fair tax system.

Henry Alexander Henrysson, a specialist at University of Iceland’s Center for Ethics maintains a certain inconsistency shines through the president’s way of speaking.

He says Ólafur Ragnar’s now famous “No, no, no, no, no” response to CNN’s question two weeks ago regarding whether his or his wife’s connections to offshore companies would be revealed, was not the truth, and the honest answer was left alone.

“Secondly, Ólafur Ragnar has spoken strongly against offshore companies. It doesn’t matter how separate their finances are, there is a certain inconsistency that shines through,” Henry stated.

Thirdly, Henry points out, the president has emphasized that Iceland needs a strong spokesman in matters regarding offshore companies. “News coverage of the [presidential] couple in foreign media disturbs the image he gave of himself; he is not as convincing.”

Elín Hirst, MP for the Independence Party, describes the silence from the Icelandic presidential residence regarding recent revelations as oppressive, RÚV reports. Neither the president nor the first lady has met RÚV’s request for an interview since Monday of last week.

Elín Hirst posted a comment on her Facebook page saying, “Oppressive silence from Bessastaðir while the foreign media puts the Icelandic presidential office in a very negative light due to the tax issues of the first lady. It’s necessary to obtain answers from the office regarding what’s going on and that can’t wait.”

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