A municipal ethics committee has harshly criticised the involvement of some Reykjavík city council members with offshore tax shelters.
When news broke last April that some former and current members of Reykjavík City Council were implicated in the Panama Papers, Reykjavík’s presidium asked the ethics committee of the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities to examine the matter and offer their opinion. While the committee does not have the authority to rule definitively if ethics have been violated, RÚV reports that they have published their opinion.
The opinion points out three main details. First of all, they point out that the City of Reykjavík established rules in 2009 requiring incoming councilpersons to register all their vested interests. Second, they point out city council rules regarding conflict of interest.
Thirdly, the committee brings up the concept of civil responsibility, saying that it could be argued that having personal funds in an offshore account at the very least goes against the spirit of regulations regarding the misuse of public funds. Even if the money in the offshore tax shelters is from personal revenue, they argue, moving this money out of the country and away from tax collectors could have serious consequences on public administration and the Icelandic economy in general.
In light of all this, the committee says, city councilpersons who move their money offshore “do not reflect a strong sense of civil responsibility,” due to the lack of transparency.
News that broke last April about Icelanders and the Panama Papers showed that two members of Reykjavík City Council at the time – Progressive Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir and Independence Party councilperson Júlíus Vífill Ingvason – both had money in offshore accounts. Sveinbjörg is still on extended maternity leave, while Júlíus resigned shortly after the story broke.