Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the Prime Minister of Iceland, talked to Icelandic Channel 2 News today about his involvement in the Panama Papers scandal. You can watch the interview with English subtitles in the player above.
The full script can be read below.
See also:Icelanders protested in front of the parliament
Reporter: Sigmundur, people are demanding that you resign after yesterday‘s news. Have you considered that?
PM Gunnlaugsson: Yesterday‘s news are nothing new. This matter has been discussed for a couple of weeks. The main point about this news coverage yesterday is that I had made everything clear before and in fact, those who made the episode, should have known that,but that is another matter.
It is however clear that my performance was terrible during the interview that was shown in the coverage. I was very surprised with what they were talking about when they asked me about a whole other matter than they had mentioned before. They had asked me to do an interview about the development in the real estate market in Sweden compared to the market in Iceland as well as financial development in Iceland.
Reporter: Shouldn’t you, as a prime minister be prepared to answer all questions,and not walk out?
PM Gunnlaugsson: That is right.A prime minister should always be ready for any questions but I was surprised because I did not know what they were talking about. They started talking about tax havens and such. Then they made the impression that I had been involved in that. It is very important to remember that my wife’s company has never been in a tax haven. And isn’t really an offshore company since it has always been taxed in Iceland.
This of course startled me. And I think I should apologize for my performance in this interview. Even though I felt betrayed and disappointed I shouldn’t have let it phase me.
Reporter: Shouldn’t you apologize for other factors in this issue?
PM Gunnlaugsson: Well, during this matter I have tried to make every fact clear. Of course I would have preferred that wife didn’t own a foreign company. That didn’t benefit her. It was also shown that you had been registered for this company for a while.
Yes, the bank registered us both. I don’t know if it was shown even though I’ve made it clear... The assets always belonged to my wife. That was corrected when the administration group was changed. We filled out a form and filed it. They noticed that there was only one owner, Anna Palsdottir.
Then they asked if that was correct. We confirmed that.
Reporter: What about the date? December 31. 2009,before the CFC-rules came in to effect. Was that a coincidence?
PM Gunnlaugsson: Well, it was... I don’t remember if I made that clear but it’s good that it’s noted in this context since people are assuming things based on dates... My wife began handing in a rundown of her assets before the law made it obligatory.
She started doing that a year before. This had nothing to do with that. Regarding that in general... If someone associated with a politician owns a foreign company... Of course that doesn’t look good.
Non the less we must remember that this was quite common amongst people with money. I didn’t know much about it during that time. Neither did she. How these things work. The main point is that it was never in a tax haven. She has always paid taxes in Iceland.
This was the main story in foreign news outlets yesterday. This matter has been damaging for Iceland.
Reporter: Have you at any point considered resignation?
PM Gunnlaugsson: No. The government has gotten amazing results in very important issues. It continues to work at big and important issues.
It’s important that it gets to finish that work. That’s the best way to preserve the interests of the nation. The progress in recent years has been unusually fast. We will probably do even better.
It’s important that the government gets to finish its work. Later my work and other issues can be judged during an election. The opposition wants to research the business.
Reporter: If this matter is researched will you at least think about, to protect the office, stepping aside temporarily?
PM Gunnlaugsson: You can demand inquires again and again to push people aside. That’s not how our constitutional state works. People shouldn’t have to prove their innocence.
My wife has already taken a pretty large step by delivering an official confirmation that she has always paid her taxes. That shouldn’t come as a surprise because she has been on lists of taxpayers since she acquired these funds.
It was clear how much she got and it was clear how much she paid in taxes year after year. That has been published by the media on a regular basis. Simply accusing someone of something in order to force them to resign is not in harmony with how we want our society to function.
Reporter: Yes or no, have you considered resigning or are you going to resign?
PM Gunnlaugsson: I have not considered resigning nor am I going to resign because of this matter. Now it’s imperative that the government finishes the good work it has been doing. What this matter has really shown us is that my wife has always paid her taxes and not taken advantage of opportunities to not do so. She has been willing to sacrifice her interests for the good of the community and will surely be ready to continue doing that.
This matter must be damaging for the office. It’s connected to the biggest data leak in history. What you said is completely true. This is a massive leak.
Hundreds of companies just in Iceland. I don’t know how many thousands around the world. This will surely spark debate about people and institutions and many countries in the coming years.
In that context it’s important to know... Like I’m glad to see, respected, foreign news outlets have pointed out that nothing here seems illegal. Even though the establishment of companies such as these isn’t as regular as it once was in Iceland.
Many people who watched the show wondered when you and your wife established this foreign company:
Reporter: Did you trust the krona which you have supported fiercely?
PM Gunnlaugsson: While we lived abroad we figured we would continue to do so. Therefore we assumed that it was natural that her assets would be in the currency that was used where she lived.
Reporter: Did you see the Kastljos-episode last night?
Gunnlaugsson: I never enjoy seeing myself doing interviews. I’ve been in two episodes of “Sjalfstaett folk” but I haven’t watched them. I watched this episode with one eye. I thought it was peculiar that the known facts of the case weren’t cited...
Reporter: How did you feel when you watched?
PM Gunnlaugsson: You always feel bad watching yourself... I always feel bad seeing myself doing interviews. No matter if it’s positive or not. Who wouldn’t feel bad
seeing themselves in a situation like that...
Reporter: You contradicted yourself. You lied during the interview when you’re first asked. Why?
PM Gunnlaugsson: That’s not correct. These questions were brought up after discussions about tax havens and tax evasion. And like I mentioned earlier this company has never been in a tax haven. When they explain what they’re talking about I instantly say and iterate...
Which is of course the key issue. This company has never been hidden. All fees and taxes have always been paid.
Reporter: But do you understand the anger? Many people were dumbfounded by the episode. Over 10 thousand people are going to Austurvollur to protest later today. Do you understand the people who are angry?
PM Gunnlaugsson: I fully understand that because of the discourse that some people are angry. But I think many wonder what’s real regarding this issue. That’s why it’s important that the facts are known. I’m sympathetic in that regard. I also sympathize with the fact that people expect that the prime minister can answer questions clearly.
If the protest is well attended and people demand that you resign, will you listen to the people? The entire population won’t be at Austurvollur. The government has been protested against on many occasions. It’s nothing new that people find a reason to protest this government.
I will listen to the people during the next election. That is its purpose. To judge those who have been in power. It’s fine if people want to look at issues like these. But I’m ready to explain this for those who want facts.
Reporter: So you’ll weather this storm and hold office until the next election?
PM Gunnlaugsson: Yes. I’ll let the voters judge the work of the government. And like I said other issues if they want.
Reporter: Thank you, Sigmundur.