Analysis: Icelandic Parliament must Decide Fate of former Ministers Skip to content

Analysis: Icelandic Parliament must Decide Fate of former Ministers

Today, Saturday at 5 pm, a committee of parliament members appointed by Althingi to examine its research report regarding the 2008 economic collapse will reveal their findings. This outcome is awaited by many, including politicians in all parties. The outcome will no doubt be controversial.

Althingi. Photo: Páll Stefánsson/Iceland Review

According to Morgunbladid, the majority of the committee’s members will propose to Althingi that the a special court, Landsdómur, be assembled in order to address the possible responsibility of four former ministers, in accordance with laws regarding Ministers’ accountability.

The committee bases its conclusions on the findings of the Special Research Committee of Althingi that delivered its report on the causes of the collapse of the Icelandic economy and the banking system in April. The Research Committee did not say whether to charge the former ministers, but said that three ministers showed negligence. The three were former Prime Minister and leader of the Independence Party Geir Haarde, Minister of Commerce Björgvin G. Sigurdsson and Minister of Finance Árni M. Mathiesen. The report said that Minister for Foreign Affairs Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, had not had direct responsibility, since her ministry did not handle economic affairs.

Morgunbladid claims that the committee has debated whether to charge two or four of the former ministers. According to other reports some members of Althingi do not want to charge any ministers, since the law says that charges should only be brought if a verdict is likely. Few MPs have spoken on record, since the report is not public yet and nobody outside the committee has seen it yet. The report of the parliamentary committee was printed during the night, probably to insure secrecy.

Former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde is said to bear responsibility for not initiating necessary changes in the spring of 2010. At that time he was aware of the grave danger and poor status of the Icelandic banks. According to the April report he should have called for further information and perhaps some government action. no later than May 15, 2008. Haarde has claimed that any action on his part would merely have accelerated the events. He told the Research committee that he did not feel responsible for what happened.

The Report said that on February 7 2008 three ministers, Haarde, Foreign minister Gísladóttir and Minister of Finance Mathiesen were given an update in a meeting with the Central Bank of Iceland. After that meeting they should have realized how extremely dangerous the situation could become.

One of the actions that should have been taken was to bring the Icesave-accounts of Landsbanki to a British subsidiary. This was never done. In May 2008 Landsbanki was allowed to open up Icesave-accounts in Holland, also not in a subsidiary. It is clear that the bank had no chance of putting the Icesave-accounts in subsidiaries, since the bank took money from the British and Dutch accounts to finance other loans. It has been revealed that the principal owners of the bank, Björgólfur Gudmundsson and Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson and related parties, had gotten loans that exceeded the limit set by law.

The charges against Mathiesen and Sigurdsson are similar in nature. Sigurdsson has claimed that he was not kept informed about many of the things that were going on. He is a member of the Social Democratic Alliance, under the leadership of Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. The two were said to be in different factions of the party. Former Central Bank Director, Davíd Oddsson, said in a speech last year that Sigurdsson was kept out of the loop because he could not be trusted with a secret.

Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir is said to be under consideration of being charged, because as a leader of on of the two coalition parties she had political responsibility. Furthermore, she had information on the serious situation and should therefore have been active in initiating reforms.

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