Iceland PM Resigns Amid Panama Papers Leak
The first political casualty of the massive Panama Papers information leak, Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson tendered his resignation as PM of Iceland amid the links that he and his wife hid massive offshore wealth.
Gunnlaugsson is the first politician to resign amid the worldwide probe of 11.5 million leaked documents linking a global web of wealth to political figures.
"The prime minister told (his party's) parliamentary group meeting that he would step down as prime minister and I will take over," the Progressive Party's deputy leader Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson told a live broadcast.
Gunnlaugsson denies any wrongdoing, but gave way to the pressure that he should resign after thousands took to the streets. "We want a new government," said Katrin Thorvaldsdottir "We want to be governed by people who pay their taxes in Iceland, and for that we need a new vote as soon as possible."
Earlier, his office downplayed a possible resignation and only "suggested" that his deputy to take over for "an unspecified amount of time".
World leaders and celebrities implicated in the huge leak hit back at the report, denying any wrongdoings despite international rage.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates, Chinese President Xi Jinping's relatives, FIFA's new president Gianni Infantino and stars such as Argentine football star Lionel Messi were among the few who were implicated in the leak.
Countries worldwide scramble to investigate
The Panama Papers, a vast stash of records dating years from Panama's Mossack Fonseca law firm, was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and was shared to over 100 media groups by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The journalists published their findings after a one-year probe this last Sunday on April 3.
Offshore financial dealings are not illegal per se, but are infamously known to be used as a tool to avoid paying taxes and launder wealth, that could possibly be stolen through criminal activities.
Australia, France, and the Netherlands have announced that they will begin investigations. Canada has requested a copy of the papers for its own probe, while a judicial source said that Spain has opened a money laundering probe into the Panamanian firm.
"Tax avoidance is a big global problem," said US President Barack Obama on Tuesday. While Panama has pledged to cooperate, France, meanwhile, put Panama into its list of countries that do not cooperate in tracking down tax dodgers, said Michael Sapin, French Finance Minister.
Minister for the presidency, Alvaro Alema, reacted angrily, threatening "retaliation measures against countries that include Panama in 'grey lists'" of tax havens.
Beijing denied responding to the accusations of its 8 current or former members of China's ruling party, as well as the relatives of President Xi Jinping, that they hid massive offshore wealth. It could be a big blow to Xi's administration, who has overseen a massive anti-corruption drive.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, three of whose children also named in the papers, said he would form a commission. The commission will investigate "how much weight these allegations should be given".
The Kremlin, on the other hand, suggested that a US plot was behind the works of the leak. One of those named in the Panama Papers was a close friend of President Putin heading an offshore empire of wealth worth $2 billion.
Lionel Messi and his father denies any wrongdoing after the said shell company that they headed were not listed in a tax probe they were in.
Among the latest allegations were more notable names, taken from Rappler. They are:
The papers cover 214,000 entities spanning over 40 years. It also named Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko. He denied any wrongdoing but may face impeachment attempts.
Ramon Fonseca told Agence-France Presse that the leaks were "a crime, a felony, and an attack on Panama".
Mossack Fonseca is subject to investigations in Germany and also in Brazil, where it is part of a huge money laundering probe that has threatened to topple the current government.