Former Iceland minister rejects Dutch Icesave criticism

bjorgvin-sigurdssonBjorgvin G. Sigurdsson felt compelled to comment openly against Nout Wellink’s recent remarks that Iceland lied to him over Icesave.

Iceland’s former Minister of Trade, Bjorgvin G. Sigurdsson wrote an open letter which was published in the Dutch de Volkskrant newspaper. He told that he saw his action as urgently necessary in the face of very serious allegations made against the former Icelandic government, and indirectly at him personally.

Dutch National Bank head Nout Wellink recently told his country’s parliamentary investigation into the Icesave collapse that the Icelanders had lied to him over the state of Landsbanki and the stability of Icesave. He also shunned any personal responsibility for the collapse, saying that European rules prevented him from doing anything to stop Icesave’s rapid expansion.

Sigurdsson disputed both points, saying that the Icelandic government never lied to Dutch authorities – and least of all his Ministry of Trade, which is in control of the FME national financial regulator.

He also pointed out that Wellink did not mention any Icelandic individual, ministry, office or institution in his accusation. His use of the word ‘Icelanders’ was unacceptably vague, Sigurdsson believes, and could simply mean Landsbanki itself – which could perhaps have been expected to lie under the circumstances.

On the second point, Sigurdsson said that despite European cross-border banking laws, every country was still ultimately in charge of its own banking sector. If the Dutch regulators had serious concerns over Icesave before the crash, there were more options available to them than were used, he believes. Sigurdsson illustrated his point by saying that French regulators had blocked Icesave from opening up in France precisely because of their fears for Landsbanki and the wider Icelandic banking sector. Wellink had the same powers available to him as the French central bank did, the former Icelandic minister wrote.

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