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Icelanders call for PM to resign after 'Panama Papers' leak

Halldor Kolbeins / AFP | Protesters outside the parliament building in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 4, 2016.

Thousands of Icelanders took to the streets late Monday calling for the prime minister's resignation after leaked tax documents dubbed the "Panama Papers" sparked allegations that he and his wife used an offshore firm to hide millions in investments.

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Protesters filled the square outside Iceland's parliament in Reykjavik as demonstrators answered a call from opposition parties to rally against Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, with organisers saying more than 10,000 had gathered.

"Take responsibility" and "Where is the new constitution?" read some of the signs carried by demonstrators on Monday, referring to the country's new charter, drawn up after the 2009 political crisis and which has since been held up in parliament.

"What would be the most natural and the right thing to do is that [he] resign as prime minister," Birgitta Jonsdottir, the head of the Pirate Party, one of Iceland's biggest opposition parties, told Reuters.

"There is a great and strong demand for that in society and he has totally lost all his trust and believability."

Financial records published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) showed that Gunnlaugsson, 41, and his wife Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir bought the offshore company Wintris Inc. in the British Virgin Islands in December 2007.

The company was intended to manage Palsdottir's inheritance from her wealthy businessman father, the amount of which has not been disclosed.

Gunnlaugsson transferred his 50-percent stake to his wife at the end of 2009, for the symbolic sum of one dollar.

But when he was elected a member of parliament for the first time in April 2009 as a member of the centre-right Progressive Party, he neglected to mention the stake in his declaration of shareholdings, as required by law.

Gunnlaugsson has meanwhile denied any wrongdoing or tax evasion and insisted Monday he would not step down. He said he never hid any money abroad and that his wife paid all her taxes on the company in Iceland.

No-confidence motion

A motion of no-confidence was presented to parliament by the opposition, and will be submitted to a vote at an undetermined date.

"The prime minister should immediately resign," former Social Democratic prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said in a message posted on Facebook.

Many Icelanders blame politicians for failing to control bankers and for years of austerity after Iceland's big banks failed in 2008, sending the economy into a nosedive.

Almost 28,000 Icelanders, in a country of just 320,000 inhabitants, have also signed a petition demanding his resignation.

"It is only logical new elections take place," Arni Pall Arnason, head of the opposition Social Democratic Alliance, told Reuters on Friday.

The details about Iceland make up just part of a huge data leak about possible tax evasion around the globe, much of it released on Sunday by the ICIJ and news organisations.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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