Independence Party Criticized for Controversial Donations Skip to content

Independence Party Criticized for Controversial Donations

By Iceland Review

It was revealed shortly before Easter that Iceland’s Independence Party had received a ISK 25 million (USD 194,000, EUR 146,000) donation from Landsbanki Bank and a ISK 30 million (USD 232,000, EUR 175,000) donation from investment company FL Group at the end of 2006, days before a new law on funding for political parties took effect, limiting the donation amount to ISK 300,000 (USD 2,300, EUR 1,700).

Chairman of the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

In response to criticism, chairman of the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson said, “In my opinion these donations were unusually high. It was wrong to accept them,” reports.

Benediktsson announced that the ISK 55 million (USD 426,000, EUR 321,000) in donations would be repaid to the bankrupt estate of Stodir (formerly FL Group) and the bankrupt estate of Landsbanki.

Geir H. Haarde, who was chairman of the Independence Party in 2006 and the first sponsor for a new bill on funding for political parties that was passed on January 1, 2007, released a statement to the media on Wednesday, claiming that he alone was responsible for accepting the grants, reports.

However, in response to anger within the Independence Party, Andri Óttarsson, the party’s managing director, resigned on Friday, arguing that it was important “to seek all possible ways to create trust and peace surrounding the party’s work,” as he described in a statement to the media, reports.

Óttarsson, who was about to replace former managing director of the Independence Party Kjartan Gunnarsson, when the donations were accepted, claimed that requesting funding from Landsbanki and FL Group had not been his initiative and that he had not made the decision to accept it.

Gunnarsson has claimed that he had no knowledge of these grants. However, according to Fréttabladid’s sources, Gunnarsson did know about these donations and had encouraged Haarde to reject them because they were unusually high and much higher than other donations the party had accepted.

According to Fréttabladid, the financial situation of the Independence Party was extremely poor in the fall of 2006 because the party had spent large amounts on its campaign for municipal elections earlier in the year.

Morgunbladid reported last week that Independence Party MP and former chairman of the board of Reykjavík Energy (OR), Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, had taken the initiative to request donations from Landsbanki and FL Group.

Thórdarson has denied having participated in raising the donations and has now requested an independent investigation by the National Audit Office into his work on behalf of OR during the time he served as the company’s chairman, Morgunbladid reports today.

“Cheap insinuations and backroom discussions about my work are unacceptable and seem to serve the sole purpose of dealing a blow to the Independence Party in this time before the elections. I believe it is important that the truth be revealed and that an objective party reviews my work and delivers a result as soon as possible,” Thórdarson said.

Left-Green Reykjavík City Councilperson Svandís Svavarsdóttir said the grant from FL Group to the Independence Party sheds a new light on the “REI matter” and the attempted merger between Reykjavík Energy Invest (REI), which was in the ownership of OR, and Geysir Green Energy (GGE), in which FL Group held a large stake, Fréttabladid reports.

Svavarsdóttir is now urging Thórdarson and former Mayor of Reykjavík Vilhjálmur Th. Vilhjálmsson, who is also a member of the Independence Party, to reveal who funded their primaries before the parliamentary elections in 2007 and the city council elections in 2006.

Thórdarson told Fréttabladid that it is possible that he will answer Svavarsdóttir’s call, however adding that he isn’t sure whether Landsbanki or FL Group had sponsored his campaign in 2007 since others had been responsible for raising funds for him. “I tried to stay as far away from it as possible.”

Click here to read more about the REI matter.

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