Panama Papers: Heads begin to roll, Iceland PM loses job

RSTV Bureau
Reykjavik  :  People gather to demonstrate against Iceland's prime minister, in Reykjavik on Monday April 4, 2016. Iceland's prime minister insisted Monday he would not resign after documents leaked in a media investigation allegedly link him to an offshore company that could represent a serious conflict of interest, according to information leaked from a Panamanian law firm at the center of an international tax evasion scheme. AP/PTI

Reykjavik : People gather to demonstrate against Iceland’s prime minister, in Reykjavik on Monday April 4, 2016. Iceland’s prime minister insisted Monday he would not resign after documents leaked in a media investigation allegedly link him to an offshore company that could represent a serious conflict of interest, according to information leaked from a Panamanian law firm at the center of an international tax evasion scheme. AP/PTI

Two days after the Panama Papers exposed the offshore accounts of several world leaders, heads have begun to roll. Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson became the first major casualty of the revelations.

Gunnlaugsson had to step down on Tuesday evening after massive protests for his ouster. The opposition in Iceland too upped the ante and filed a motion of no-confidence motion against him.

The files allegedly showed his wife owned an offshore firm with big claims on the country’s collapsed banks. Gunnlaugsson centre-right coalition government was in power since 2013.

Even though the Icelandish Prime Minister resigned, he continued to deny any wrongdoings. He claimed his wife’s overseas assets were taxed in Iceland and that he had put the interest of the public before his own.

But his opponents accuse him of a conflict of interest. They claim he should have been open about the overseas assets and the company, especially since the government was involved in striking deals with claimants of the bankrupt banks.

No just in Iceland, the Panama Papers are creating a storm in several countries where committees have been set up to probe the documents that allege the illegal stashing away of money.

Famous personalities like British Prime Minister David Cameron, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s son were all linked to the offshore funds and they have all denied illegalities.

The list also names about 500 prominent Indians including actors, politicians and businessmen who have allegedly stashed money in offshore entities in tax haven Panama.

Veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan has claimed that his name was being ‘misused’. His daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai has also rubbished the documents.

Similar statements were released by the Adani Group – whose chairman Gautam Adani’s elder brother Vinod Adani has been named in the documents. The Group alleged a deliberate attempt to draw Gautam Adani’s name in the entire controversy to “mischievously sensationalize the matter”.

The Indian government has already set up a special multi-agency probe team to look into all cases of Indians with offshore entities in tax havens.

The documents from around 214,000 offshore entities covering almost 40 years, came from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices in more than 35 countries.

A investigation into a trove of 11.5 million documents from the law firm lead to the revelations. Reports say the documents were anonymously leaked to a German daily and shared with more than 100 media groups by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

However, Mossack Fonseca has now alleged that the papers were hacked and not leaked.

(With inputs from agencies)