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Iceland PM resigns following massive protests in Panama leaks

Date published: Wednesday, 6th April 2016

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson steps down after thousands call for his resignation following Panama Papers investigation

Iceland's prime minister has resigned following massive protests in the wake of the Panama Papers investigation which revealed how the world's wealthy avoid tax.

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson stepped down on Tuesday hours after thousands of protesters gathered outside parliament to demand his resignation.

Agriculture Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson - who will replace the prime minister for an interim period - confirmed to Icelandic broadcaster RUV that Gunnlaugsson was stepping down as leader of the country's coalition government.

Gunnlaugsson is the first major scalp from a leak of more than 11 million documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm, showing tax-avoidance arrangements of the rich and famous around the world.

Gunnlaugsson was among the names mentioned in the so-called Panama Papers, which were published on Sunday.

The leaked documents allege that Gunnlaugsson and his wife set up a company called Wintris in the British Virgin Islands with the help of the Panamanian law firm.

Gunnlaugsson is accused of a conflict of interest for failing to disclose his involvement in the company, which held interests in failed Icelandic banks that his government was responsible for overseeing.

The leader quit ahead of a planned vote of no-confidence, hours after asking the president to dissolve parliament, a move which would almost certainly have led to a new election.

Despite his resignantion, opposition parties continued their call for a snap election.

Iceland, a volcanic North Atlantic island nation with a population of 330,000, was rocked by a prolonged financial crisis when its main commercial banks collapsed within a week of one another in 2008.

Since then Icelanders have weathered a recession and been subjected to tough capital controls - another reason the prime minister's offshore holdings rankle many.

"He [Gunnlaugsson] is the first casualty of the Panama Papers," said Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee, reporting from Reykjavik. "Iceland is clearly a functioning democracy. People have said they're not prepared to put up with it. As soon as it [the leak] started to come out on Sunday, people took to the streets."

Panama Papers

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), a non-profit group in the US, said the cache of 11.5 million records detailed the offshore holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders, as well as businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars.

Elsewhere among the sitting world leaders named in the leak are Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko.

The documents link at least 12 current and former heads of state and 143 other politicians to illicit financial transactions.

Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the leak, rejected wrongdoing.

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