Icelanders Banded Together To Call For Prime Minister's Resignation— And They Were Heard

The Panama Papers are beginning to gain momentum.

Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson has left office amid controversy after a massive data leak hit the Web on Sunday afternoon. Reykjavik police estimated that more than 8,000 people participated in protests demanding his resignation on Monday.

Dubbed the "Panama Papers," a collection of more than 11.5 million documents exposed how world leaders and rich public figures use offshore holdings to grow their wealth. Gunnlaugsson stepping down is the first major political fallout in the wake of the leak. 

In the documents, Gunnlaugsson was shown to have sold his share of Wintris Inc., which he hosted in the British Virgin Islands, to his wife for $1. The catch? That sale came just before a new law was implemented that would have required him to declare his stake in the company — a clear conflict of interest for a member of parliament.

Just hours after Gunnlaugsson stepped down, United States President Barack Obama took the podium at the White House to address the issue of the Panama Papers.

"We've had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem," Obama said. "It's not unique to other countries because frankly, there are folks here in America taking advantage of the same stuff. A lot of it is legal, but that's exactly the problem."

So far, the documents — which are only beginning to be released — have connected the president of Ukraine, the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, and the king of Saudi Arabia to offshore holdings. Some of the files allegedly "document some $2 billion in transactions secretly shuffled through banks and shadow companies by associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin," according to The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' website.

For their part, many Icelanders positioned the protests as a "surreal" show of unity from the small country. "When people come together," one Instagram user poignantly captioned a photo of the demonstrations.

This article has been updated to reflect a statement Gunnlaugsson's office released on Tuesday night that his resignation earlier that day was not "formal" and instead could represent an indefinite leave of absence.

Cover image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images.


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