Iceland’s embattled prime minister became the first world leader to resign over the Panama tax haven scandal yesterday amid controversy over his offshore holdings.
Prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson stood down as leader of the country’s coalition government after thousands of Icelanders gathered outside the parliament building in Reykjavik on Monday.
They demanded his resignation over reported dealings by him and his wife they said amounted to a major conflict of interest with his job.
He became the first major figure brought down by the leak of more than 11 million financial documents from a Panamanian law firm showing tax-avoidance arrangements of the rich and famous.
Mr Gunnlaugsson has denied any wrongdoing. He said he and his wife have paid all their taxes and done nothing illegal.
He also said his financial holdings did not affect his negotiations with Iceland’s creditors during the country’s acute financial crisis.
Meanwhile, in the UK David Cameron sought to distance himself from the row over the data leak, with Downing Street insisting the Prime Minister’s family “do not benefit from any offshore funds”.
Mr Cameron declared he has “no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds”, after his late father Ian’s tax affairs were highlighted in the document disclosure.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed suggestions by Downing Street that the family’s tax arrangements were a “private” matter and called for an independent investigation into those implicated by the records.
But Mr Cameron sidestepped calls for an investigation and declined to say if his family had reaped the rewards of an offshore arrangement in the past or were likely to in the future.
The Prime Minister was asked to confirm that “you and your family have not derived any benefit in the past and will not in the future” from the offshore fund set up by Ian Cameron referred to in the papers leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Among the other countries with past or present political figures named in the reports are Ukraine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Argentina.
The law firm said it had observed all laws and international standards covering corporate registrations.
Ramon Fonseca, a co-founder of Mossack Fonseca – one of the world’s largest creators of shell companies – confirmed the leaked documents were authentic and had been obtained illegally by hackers.