As Iceland’s former PM is convicted over his handling of the 2008 banking crisis, we ask if others should face trial.
“The notion of giving the bankers a blank cheque on all this is wrong and to target the politicians is wrong … there were riverboat gamblers for a period of years who engaged in some really high-risk practices.“
– James Moore, a former US assistant secretary of commerce for trade development
Geir Haarde, the former prime minister of Iceland, has become the first politician to be found guilty over allegations that he did not do enough to protect his country from the financial crisis.
On Monday, he was found guilty of one charge related to the handling of the 2008 banking crisis that led to the collapse of all three of Iceland’s major banks.
He was cleared of three more serious charges, including negligence.
But Haarde claims he has been made a scapegoat.
“Most prime ministers are protected by ministerial immunity … we never had the legal consequences for politicians to face …. Why should [they] be allowed to bankrupt a country in the future?”
– Jon Truby, a specialist in business law
He told Al Jazeera: “The court is not the venue to settle political differences like what’s being tried here. If you have political differences you show them at the ballot box …. Prosecuting political leaders for a crisis like this does not serve any purpose. It’s a multi-faceted thing. When a banking crisis occurs you cannot blame it on just one individual, not me in Iceland or all politically leaders personally in other countries.”
So, should political leaders stand trial for mismanaging their country? Should politicians be criminally prosecuted for making wrong decisions? Does Haarde’s conviction set a precedent for other countries?
Joining Inside Story with presenter Folly Bah Thibault to discuss this are guests: Sigron Davidsdottir, an Icelandic financial journalist; Jon Truby, a professor at Qatar University and a specialist in business law; and James Moore, a former US assistant secretary of commerce for trade development during the Reagan administration.
“The Office of the Special Prosecutor has charged some bankers and there are definitely more cases coming …. Now what we’re seeing in the Icelandic banks is alleged fraud and these banks were cooperating with other international banks.”
Sigron Davidsdottir, an Icelandic financial journalist
GEIR HAARDE FACTS:
- Iceland’s former prime minister was found guilty of not holding cabinet meetings during a critical period
- But he was found not guilty of negligence during the 2008 financial crisis
- He is the only politician in the world to stand trial over the 2008 crisis
- He pleaded not guilty to charges of failure to avert the financial meltdown
- He fell from power following the collapse of Iceland’s three biggest banks