From Iceland — Finance Minister's Father Amongst Buyers Of Shares Of Íslandsbanki

Finance Minister’s Father Amongst Buyers Of Shares Of Íslandsbanki

Published April 7, 2022

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Yesterday, the Ministry of Finance made public the list of 209 investors who purchased a combined total of a 22.5% share in Íslandsbanki, a bank which has been owned by the Icelandic State Treasury following the 2008 financial crash.

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RÚV reports that while the Ministry had pointed out that Icelandic law demands transparency when it comes to the purchase of shares in government-owned companies, Icelandic State Financial Investments (ISFI) advised that it would be careless to publish the complete list of investors. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Finance has made the list public (.pdf), and while pension funds feature prominently, one company in particular caught the attention of reporters.

Family ties

As Vísir reports, one of the investors is a company called Hafsilfur, which paid 54,873,585 ISK for a 0.1042% share of Íslandsbanki. According to CreditInfo, Hafsilfur is owned by Benedikt Sveinsson, who is the father of Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson.

While it was also revealed that the holding company Steinn, which is majority owned by Samherji CEO Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, bought a 0.5628% share of Íslandsbanki for about 296 million ISK, the close ties between the Minister of Finance and one of the buyers in a bank still majority-owned by the Icelandic government has drawn considerably more attention.

“I had no idea”

In an interview on the radio show Bítið this morning, Bjarni contended that he had no idea his own father was one of the investors in Íslandsbanki, the partial sale of which has been controversial from the beginning. Bjarni himself has been one of the strongest advocates for selling a portion of the bank.

“I received the list [of investors] yesterday,” Bjarni said. “This is the first time I’ve seen who bought shares. No, I didn’t know [my father was amongst them]. And it caught me completely by surprise yesterday. It did. I had no idea.”

Bjarni added that he has made it a personal policy to not get involved in what his father gets up to. Readers may recall that Bjarni’s father also played a key role in a series of events that led to the collapse of Iceland’s government in 2017.

“I completely understand that people are asking for an explanation as to how this could have happened,” Bjarni told Bítið this morning. “And it’s a given that this will be answered. I believe the explanation will hold up well to scrutiny.”

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