ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Islande. Le chantage britannique
by Gael de Santis
Translated Thursday 1 April 2010, by Gene Zbikowskiand reviewed by
London and Amsterdam are using the worst of methods in demanding 3.8 billion euros from tiny Iceland.
London is committing a veritable stick-up to get the assets of the Landsbanki bank. When Landsbanki went bankrupt in October 2008, it took with it its subsidiary, the online bank Icesave. 320,000 Britons and Dutch people had put their savings in Icesave, attracted by a 6.5% interest rate. Fearing that Landsbanki would repatriate its capital to Iceland, London froze the bank’s assets via the arbitrary use of the antiterrorist laws. In point of fact, London has used this legislation to extort gigantic concessions from a tiny country, Iceland.
London and Amsterdam have compensated the savings of their citizens, and are turning to Iceland for reimbursement. Late in 2008, Reykjavik was forced to sign on and recognize its obligation to pay in order to get the bank off the list of terrorist organizations. London took advantage of the fact that Iceland was confronted with enormous public debt to impose draconian conditions: reimbursement will be made at a prohibitive 5.5% interest rate, when the Bank of England practices a rate of just 0.5%!
“In the first years, we will be paying practically nothing but interest,” pointed out Johannes Skulason of the In Defense association, which opposes the accord. The total sum will come to nearly 3.8 billion euros, or 12,000 euros per Icelander.
Landsbanki’s assets should allow reimbursement of 20,000 euros per account to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, in line with the rules of the French Fonds de Garantie des Dépôts. [The Fonds was set up in 1999 and its principal mission is to compensate depositors of an institution which can no longer meet its liabilities.] But the Netherlands and Great Britain have compensated the total savings of the account holders and “are forcing the Icelandic taxpayers to pay the difference,” complained Johannes Skulason.
The Icelanders accept this obligation all the less as London has refused to allow the affair to be brought before an international court, and Iceland respected European legislation. Moreover some legal experts think that, since Landsbanki did business mainly in Britain, it is up to London to pay.
The historic referendum on the ratification of the Icesave accord, set for Saturday March 6, was obtained thanks to a petition signed by one-quarter of the voters. The partisans of a “no” vote note that their mobilization has already forced London and Amsterdam to reopen talks.
The “no” camp hopes that this will force London and Amsterdam, which authorized Icesave to set up in Great Britain and the Netherlands, to assume part of the costs of the bankruptcy. In July, the two countries paid no attention to the conditions imposed by the Icelandic parliament, which for the first time in history made reimbursement dependent on the country’s capacity to pay.