The vote on the Icesave issue, which was due to start at 10 am this morning, was postponed last night as new documents surfaced that had hitherto been kept secret.
The documents are from British law firm Mischon de Reya and apparently they outline an advantage that the Icelandic authorities might have in negotiations with UK authorities in the Icesave matter, due to the UK’s takeover of Landsbanki’s Heritable bank in autumn 2008.
The freezing of the assets of Heritable was a huge deal at the time, as UK authorities used anti-terrorist legislation to do so and placed the Icelandic Central Bank on a list of terrorist organizations that included Al-Qaeda. The CB was soon removed from the list, but Landsbanki itself remained on there for months.
Icelandic authorities and indeed many Icelanders were deeply offended that a supposedly friendly nation and NATO ally would group it with a list of terrorist organizations without any prior warning. It also caused a run on the last remaining Icelandic bank – Kaupthing – causing it to collapse a few days later. [Whether or not it would have collapsed anyway is a subject of debate – however, it was at the time the one Icelandic bank thought to be able to withstand the collapse. But that was then – this is now.]
The Icelandic authorities commissioned reports from two British law firms on the Icesave matter, and those reports arrived just before Christmas. When the report from the aforementioned Mischon de Reya arrived it transpired that there were further documents that had been kept secret – i.e. the report mentioned meetings that had not been documented. In fact, the whole Icesave matter has been riddled with a lack of transparency and rumours of secret documents and meetings.
Those extra documents, which allegedly were also new to the Icelandic authorities, finally arrived yesterday, accompanied by a letter from the law firm, which states:
As we told the Icesave committee and the Ministry of Finance at around this time, such court proceedings against the FSA [British Financial Supervisory Authority] could be politically sensitive for the British government and could therefore be a potentially useful tool to gain traction against the British authorities in the final negotiations on the Icesave matter.
[NB – this is my translation of an Icelandic text that appeared on Eyjan.]
The details are still a bit unclear, but it is being floated around that the head of the Icesave committee had requested that the law firm keep various documents secret from Iceland’s Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson when he was briefed on the status of the Icesave matter last spring. The Minister, however, has said he does not buy that explanation.
What we do know is that the voting has been postponed, parliament has dissolved into a flurry of meetings and consultations, and the Icesave issue will probably not be resolved before the end of the year, as planned.
Similar to what it has been – cold and clear and very pretty from the window. Right now a very frigid -8°C [18F]. The sun rose at 11.21 and will set at 3.39.