Iceland PM Bjarni Benediktsson sold assets before 2008 crisis: Reports

Iceland's Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson allegedly sold almost all of his assets in a major bank just before the government nationalised it during the nation's 2008 financial collapse.

Published: 07th October 2017 01:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th October 2017 01:01 AM   |  A+A-

Iceland Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson (Photo | AP)


REYKJAVIK: Iceland's Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson allegedly sold almost all of his assets in a major bank just before the government nationalised it during the nation's 2008 financial collapse, according to several media reports on Friday.

Icelandic bi-monthly newspaper Stundin, the investigative agency Reykjavik Media and Britain's The Guardian reported that Benediktsson sold his assets in an investment fund in Glitnir bank when he was a lawmaker, hours before the state took over three of the country's banks under an emergency law.

Benediktsson, who was among several other Icelandic politicians mentioned in the Panama Papers leaks which revealed off-shore tax havens, denies the allegations. 

The media reports cited official documents and e-mails to back up the information, putting the prime minister in a tough situation three weeks ahead of an October 28 snap legislative election. 

Iceland's government collapsed last month when a coalition partner quit after finding out that Benediktsson covered up his father's involvement in a legal row. 

Benediktsson, who was an MP on the parliament's economy committee in 2008, sold almost all his assets worth 119 million Icelandic kronur ($1.4 million, 971.000 euros), according to The Guardian.  

The documents claim that he had close relations with the heads of the Glitnir bank, which has raised questions about a potential conflict of interest between his role as a lawmaker and a bank client.  

Benediktsson has denied any involvement in insider trading. 

"All of my transactions with Glitnir Bank were normal. They have passed repeated examinations. That's the main point," he said on his Facebook account on Friday. 

Benediktsson said he had placed an order to sell his shares on October 2, 2008, before the financial institutions were nationalised to protect the banks from default on October 6, adding that "it takes 2-3 days to finalise" a transaction. 

"The sales proceeds were kept in the bank afterwards... I gradually sold (the assets) over the year and transferred (parts of them) into other funds and accounts in the bank," Benediktsson said. 

"It's being insinuated that I had misused my position and committed inside trading. Both are wrong," he said. 

The prime minister's family is one of the richest and most influential in Iceland. His father and uncle also sold their assets a few days before Glitnir's collapse.

The reports are the latest blow to Benediktsson, who was a finance minister when his name was associated with a Seychelles offshore company in the 2015 Panama Papers leaks, triggering the previous government to collapse and forcing former then-prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson to resign. 


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