On April 22, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked Iceland President Olafur Grimsson: “Do you have any offshore accounts? Does your wife have any offshore accounts? Is there anything that’s going to be discovered about you and your family?”
“No, no, no, no, no,” Grimsson replied. “That’s not going to be the case.”
But secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media partners show that Grimsson’s spouse, First Lady Dorrit Moussaieff, has had extensive links to the offshore world.
While Grimsson himself doesn't have an offshore account in the records, First Lady Moussaieff was listed as a beneficiary of five companies and trusts that have held Swiss banks accounts, according to documents obtained from whistleblowers by Le Monde, Suddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ in the Swiss Leaks and Panama Papers investigations. Her family, including her two sisters, had accounts that together held as much as $80 million in HSBC’s Swiss Private Bank in 2006 and 2007. Dorrit Moussaieff herself appears not to have played a role in most of the holdings.
The documents don’t show any wrongdoing by Dorrit Moussaieff, and it is not necessarily illegal to have offshore companies or Swiss bank accounts. But the documents raise questions about whether Iceland’s first lady benefited from the offshore tax strategies of her parents and whether her interests have been fully disclosed.
Earlier revelations about the offshore holdings of Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson had forced the prime minister’s resignation. Grimsson explained his about-face on running for his sixth term as president by saying he wanted to bring some stability to a country that suffered a financial collapse in 2008 and is now going through a political crisis.
Later in the CNN interview, Grimsson called the Panama Papers “a great public service” and “a wakeup call” about problems in the global economy that need to be addressed.
In a statement to ICIJ, a spokesman for Grimsson said: “President Grimsson does not have, nor has he at any time had, any information about the financial affairs of his wife or other members of the Moussaieff family. He and his wife lead independent lives.”
In a statement to The Guardian, another ICIJ media partner, Grimsson noted that he has “always been very critical of tax-driven offshore structures and for decades advocated a fair and balanced tax system.”
In a letter to ICIJ, the first lady’s law firm wrote: “Ms. Moussaieff and her husband have always and continue to conduct their financial affairs entirely separately from each other and neither has knowledge of the other’s financial circumstances. Ms. Moussaieff’s private financial affairs are conducted in compliance with all relevant tax and legal regimes. Any insinuation to the contrary would be defamatory.”
“There is no public interest in the disclosure of private financial information,” the letter said.