Panama Papers: Icelandic PM’s Resignation & the Dark Underside of Politics

By Caleb Newton

    The so-called “Panama Papers” were released this week, a beyond massive data leak about some 120 heads of state, both former and current, plus their allies, and these persons’ escapades with tax havens in which they hide money. The papers, whose leak came from an anonymous source, funnelled through a German journalist, have elicited varied responses so far, including the, er, slightly humourous, accusations of “Putiniphobia” from national Russian media.

    On April 5, though, the unfolding saga of the Panama Papers came to its most remarkable point yet - the ‘resignation’ of the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson who, in previous days, had faced what were suggested to be the largest protests in modern history (in terms of proportion): at least 10,000 people gathered in Reykjavik the evening before the resignation announcement, throwing eggs and demanding that the PM be ousted.

    Now, the point I would like to make here is to those who have, in the past, held up Iceland as an ideal model for what all Western governments should be like. Often pointed out is the fact that Iceland jailed at least several bankers who were, through the exercise of their market control tentacles, in some way responsible for the global financial crisis some years ago. This jailing supposedly represents a high level of goodness and more about the Icelandic government.

    But not so fast to those who look so shallowly at the situation. Such countries as the so-called Social Democracy of Iceland are not immune from having even worse problems than those currently being experienced by the convoluted mess that is the American-style system of government. That inherent danger in most governmental systems on earth today is a massively important point to drive home.

    It’s not about saying different things but still playing the same game. Putting people in charge of things is not going to solve the problems created when people are at the head of government. Too often, that’s all these social democracies add up too, but it’s  just the same people saying different things.

    You can see another example of this issue in the American side of the problem around the document drop. There was a free trade agreement pushed through some years ago, namely, the Panama-United States Trade Promotion Agreement, a free trade agreement, which went through largely unopposed. On the surface, such a deal sounds great. Well, the title is about as far as the freedom goes, because whenever the word freedom or the like is invoked it almost always goes badly. The reason for this issue is that ideals are concocted by someone, meaning there is always a person hiding behind any invocation of freedom or a similar concept. In this case, there were businessmen and politicians, hiding behind the freedom, who funnelled millions offshore to Panama to hide them from the public eye and accountability.

    On account of things like this Panama Papers scandal, we, the people of the world, need the rule of law. We need less people in charge of executing that law, not different people, or, dear goodness, more people. That is a major lesson to take from this fiasco - what so many have said all along, that the system (almost hopelessly corrupt) and the individuals at the helm (left and right) and their control over the lives of people need to be removed.

(Image: Panama Paper Header - ICIJ)

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. This is why we need to fight offshore accounts and cut the rich people's ability to hide money! Down with the 1 percenters!

    1. Celia, how do you propose to do that? 1% - where do you people get that number from exactly? And how come you mix the Middle Class (low, middle and high) with the so-called poor, in the so-called 99%? We must question those numbers.

    2. Actually- the bad thing is not the people, it's the system. So, to only attack the so-called 1 percenters does not get at the root of the problem. I'd say "Down with the 1%." As for Max's question- it's just a convenient delineation.

    3. The 1 percenters love the Celia's. Because when it comes time to cast stones at the 1 percenters, it is always the 1 percenters' lackeys who are called upon to do the dirty work. The innocent get bloodied, and the 1 percenters take their possessions. Nice job Caleb!

    4. Netwon, but who created the system? People, so the problem ends up being people.
      Cheers for the link, but again: a report produced by Oxfam? Not credible.

      "just a convenient delineation"

      Indeed. But perhaps we should call it a "convenient fallacy"? I think it's more accurate.

    5. I see it like I see counterterrorism, I suppose. Killing off ISIS leaders does little to curb terror. In the same way, attacking people as somehow involved in some magical global conspiracy does little. I mean, look at Jacobin France. They executed people left and right, but didn't get anywhere. So, individual people is only so far effective. And, what would you suggest replace the term 1%? I have just as often heard 0.01%. You can't deny that inequality exists- you can deny that it is bad, that's fine. but you can't deny the inequality represented by the term 1%. I mean, the exact number and the specific people who make up the number are not the top priorities of people who use the term. It is just to make a better life for people, and to eliminate unnecessary inequality.

    6. Newton, good example (Jacobin): but again, people were the problem. It was people killing people, and nothing guarantees us that the ones killed wouldn't do the same if given the opportunity at that specific time. So people are the problem.

      "So, individual people is only so far effective."

      Ok, you have a point and we see that regarding Islam: the individual Muslim is a in general a very good person, a delightful person, but then when he his brethren that's when troubles start. It's the same with other people: individually they are ok, but when they gang up troubles arise. So how to solve that?

      "And, what would you suggest replace the term 1%?"

      I would obliterate all percentages because we don't know for sure how many rich people there are in the world. These fictitious numbers are based on public reports (done with the permission of those who want to be known as being rich), but how many others are rich but are not publicly registered as such, and do have have Instagram accounts showing off their wealth (i.e. silent rich)?

      We have been stirring up emotions and jealousy based on fictitious numbers, and that's dangerous. Plus, 99%...ok, in those 99% how many are middle class (low, middle and high) who live better off than the "poor" and miserable? This "us against them" stance is the exact same one used by terrorists. We must not condone it.

      Inequality exists and it will always exist. Within a house, within one single family, inequality exists. It's inherent to human life. Read your Torah, man. But we must not stir emotions based on fake numbers.
      Plus, this inequality conversation doesn't solve anything either because we are looking at the question from the wrong angle (jealousy, envy). Talk to Cristina, she has some pretty good ideas about this topic.

  2. Hi Newton,

    Bernie Sanders is one of those who uses the Scandinavian countries as examples to our societies, ha!

    This article basically says that people like Bernie Sanders (and let's be honest, most of European politicians) are the ones who cause others to hide their wealth by over taxing citizens. The author is right. So, the Panama Papers do not shock me.

    Shabbat Shalom

  3. We should examine what precedent we have in International Law on Off Shore Banking. If we were to look at this per Country, there may not be many laws that can apply. I agree, the Panama Papers are not surprising but adds to the ever growing information on the wealth accumulation of the Global "Elite" and the manipulation of social, financial and political systems for personal gain. The leaders of Iceland, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, UK and FIFA are a few examples.

  4. The other angle that must be explored is how many of these accounts and front companies are linked to terrorist and criminal activity, how many persons in government, the judiciary, law enforcement, military, intelligence have accounts and are implicated. These Papers can or may have already jeopardised on going operations and lives of agents and civilians and sheds light on many controversial legal judgement on cases, operations and political decisions and leadership

  5. Let's get real, if these papers do not expose politicians' tax evasion or links to terrorism, they lose their value. They are worthless if we only focus on the rich placing their money in offshore accounts for several reasons that are none of our business! What we want to know is if the politicians that suck us dry are getting rich at our expense and if they receive money from states that sponsor terror. All the rest is nothing.

    1. Well, there were apparently 120 current and former heads of state implicated.

    2. From what I've read so far not all the 120 former and current heads of state did something illicit. And to drag them all to this 'scandal' without fully analysing their investments, if they are legal or not, is malicious. Now we have to question the ICIJ's agenda too!

    3. Well, I am sure that you are well aware that the ICIJ has an agenda and that is a splendid point indeed. I can say that as a professional writer, that writing a story is the most important thing in the journalism world, sadly enough. So, great point.


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