From Iceland — Artist Offers To Buy Icelandic Banks In Exchange For Absolution

Artist Offers To Buy Icelandic Banks In Exchange For Absolution

Published January 16, 2019

Valur Grettisson

Snorri Ásmundsson, artist, former presidential candidate and enfant terrible against the Icelandic establishment, has made a formal, and, well, intriguing offer to buy the Icelandic government-owned banks, Landsbanki Íslands and Íslandsbanki.

Both banks collapsed in the financial storm of Iceland in 2008 and ended up in the ownership of the taxpayers. At first, the Icelandic government was on the brink of bankruptcy because of this ownership, but quickly got back on its feet after Iceland refused to pay for the debts of the banks.

Over 200 billion krónur

In the past few years, the Icelandic nation has gained a lot from the banks, or a little under 200 billion ISK in capital gains. Because of this, there has been discussion among MPs from the independence party to privatise these two banks again. The third one, Arion Banki, formerly Kaupþing, has already been privatised.

Controversial idea

This idea is of course highly controversial in Icelandic discussions, mostly because the last time the government privatised the banks, in 2003, it only took private bankers five years to run the banks to the ground—and almost the whole nation with them. Also, the Independence Party and the Progressive party were accused of dividing the banks between their handpicked members of the party. The same parties are in government now, although they are lead by the Left-Green Party. Then there is also the question of why taxpayers should give away their cash cow, which has already put 200 billion ISK in the treasury.

So it came as a surprise that Snorri Ásmundsson announced yesterday that he had made an offer to buy both banks. He offered to pay for the government’s own shares with something more valuable than money: a letter of indulgence or absolution for the Icelandic nation.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to us at Reykjavík Grapevine.

Snorri the priest

Snorri have twice announced that he was going to run as president of Iceland, but never formally participated in the race for the office.

Snorri was also criticised heavily after he held a mass in a small church in Hrísey as a part of performance, and ate a chocolate while he did it. He also played a hymn on the piano. The parish committee for the region was reportedly displeased with the event. Narfi Björgvinsson, the chair of the committee, told reporters that he did not fully realise how the church was going to be used when it was booked by phone the week previous, and took great exception to what transpired.

Snorri has yet to receive an answer for his offer in the banks, but he sent a letter to Bjarni Benediktsson, the Minister of Finance, and Icelandic State Financial Investments.

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