Iceland finance minister says won't resign over Panama Papers leaks

Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson (L), minister of fisheries and agriculture of the Progressive Party who was named as new prime minister by two government coalition parties attends press conference together with finance minster Bjarni Benediktsson in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Sigtryggur Johannsson

LONDON (Reuters) - Iceland’s Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson said on Tuesday he would not resign over the Panama Papers leaks, which showed he once had a stake in an offshore investment firm in the Seychelles.

Asked by reporters in London whether he would quit, Benediktsson answered: “No”.

The statement came a week after Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned as prime minister over the leaked documents which showed his wife owned an offshore company that held debt from failed Icelandic banks.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which saw the leaked papers from Panamanian lawyers Mossack Fonseca, said they showed Benediktsson and two Icelandic businessmen had power of attorney over a shell company called Falson & Co. created in 2005 in the Seychelles.

The Consortium reported that Benediktsson had confirmed he owned a third of the company and had said it was set up for investing in four apartments in a building which was being built in Dubai, but that the company had been wound down in 2009.

The wider revelations have triggered a political maelstrom in Iceland, further undermining confidence in its political and financial elite. A poll last week showed 69 percent of respondents wanted Benediktsson to resign.

(This version of the story was refiled to drop extraneous word “was” in first paragraph)

Reporting by Marc Jones; Additional reporting by Sven Nordenstam in Stockholm; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Raissa Kasolowsky