Iceland's ex-PM refuses to take blame for financial meltdown as trial begins
For many, Geir Haarde is the villain responsible for the disastrous 2008 financial implosion from which Iceland is still recovering. But yesterday at his trial, the island's currently disgraced former-Prime Minister flatly rejected all such charges against him and defiantly insisted they were baseless.
Mr Haarde, 60, who is the first politician to be charged in connection with the global financial crisis, appeared at the opening of his trial at a special court in Reykjavik where he faces charges of negligence for failing to prevent the 2008 collapse of Iceland's main bank, which sparked the crisis.
The former head of the island's right- of-centre Independence Party, was prime minister from 2006 until early 2009 when his coalition was ousted from power amid rocketing inflation, spiralling unemployment and uproar over its alleged failure to properly oversee the country's financial institutions
But Mr Haarde told the court: "I applaud the fact that I am able to respond to the questions raised in this case, but I reject all the accusations and believe there is no basis for them." He added: "It is only with hindsight that it has become evident that not everything was as it should have been."
The collapse of Iceland's main bank pushed the country into a deep recession, spelt near disaster for holders of Icesave accounts in Britain and the Netherlands, before their money was guaranteed by their governments, and prompted a $2.1bn bailout from the International Monetary Fund. But the economy has since rebounded and is set to grow by 3.1 per cent this year.
Mr Haarde's statements to the court were a toned down version of interviews he gave before his trial in which he claimed he was the victim of "political persecution" and being made a scapegoat. Insisting that the interests of Icelanders were his "guiding light" he has blamed the crisis on the banks. He has pleaded not guilty and described the proceedings as preposterous.
However, despite claims that Iceland's meltdown was inextricably linked to the global crisis, a 2010 report commissioned by parliament – now controlled by the country's left-of-centre opposition – concluded much of the blame should be attributed to Mr Haarde and his government. It argued that both "lacked the power and courage to set reasonable limits on the financial system".
Under Iceland's legal system, members of parliament rather than an independent judiciary, were allowed to determine whether Mr Haarde and other members of his cabinet should face prosecution. Parliament decided by 33 to 30 votes to press charges against the former leader but declined to prosecute three other government members.
Mr Haarde is being tried by a special 15-member court. It contains five judges, a court president, a law professor and eight people chosen by parliament.
Legal experts have said Mr Haarde has a strong chance of being cleared, not least because of the court's political structure and growing public sympathy for a politician appearing to shoulder the burden of the crisis alone. If convicted he could face up to two years in prison.
Haarde times: the crisis unfolds
May 2007 Geir Haarde remains PM after a general election.
April 2008 As pressures build, the Government warns it may intervene in markets to fight hedge funds it says are attacking the financial system.
October 2008 Government takes control of the banks in an attempt to stabilise the financial system.
November 2008 IMF approves $2.1bn (£1.4bn) loan to Iceland.
January 2009 Haarde quits after protests, citing medical reasons.
April 2009 Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir's centre-left coalition wins power.
February 2010 Unemployment rises to more than 15,000 (9 per cent of workforce) – up from just over 1,500 at the start of 2008.
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
- 4 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
How the language you speak changes your view of the world
General election live: Russell Brand endorses Labour (except in Scotland and Brighton)
Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...