Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for November, 2012

Iceland’s white-collar criminals

A few days ago I finished reading the 9th volume of the Special Investigation Committee’s report into the events leading up to the bank collapse in 2008. The report came out in April 2010, less than 48 hours before Eyjafjallajökull started erupting. The eruption then monopolised all news coverage of the SIC report, both within Iceland and abroad.
The last pages of volume 9 were devoted to a list of people who were interviewed by the committee. One of the things that struck me was that about 7-10 people took their lawyers with them when they went to be interviewed. This applied to the heads of Kaupthing and Glitnir banks and to all the staff of KPMG accountants who were interviewed. Some staff from another accounting firm took a lawyer with them.
To me, this shows that the accountants KNEW they had been amiss when reviewing the accounts of the banks.
A lot of very interesting things were brought up in the report, and 3 ministers plus the head of the Central Bank of Iceland and the head of the Financial Supervisory Authority were reprimanded for negligence. The then-Prime Minister, Geir H. Haarde, subsequently went before a special court and was found guilty on one charge out of four. He was given a suspended sentence, which was of course the same as being let off completely because he was no longer a politician and hence the likelihood of a repeat event was nil.
Other white-collar criminals have been convicted for financial misdoings. Currently, two of them are in an open prison for breach of trust to do with Exista. The prison consists of space for 20 prisoners in the main building plus a house about 200 m away that had previously been the home of whoever was directing the prison at the time. This house has a fully equipped kitchen, 3 bedrooms, a hot tub, and 24-hour access to the Internet and mobile phones. Usually, it is the best-behaviour prisoners who are allowed to be there, but the Exista men went straight there. Not a bad place to spend one’s time.

Trafficking as Forced Labour

I’m currently writing an article about trafficking as forced labour, as the issue cropped up here recently. Iceland adheres to the definition of trafficking that is found in the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which gives a broader definition of trafficking than the Palermo Convention does – the latter says that trafficking is always related to organised crime, whereas the former says that individuals can also bring about trafficking.
While researching the article, I am being sent from one person to another, both when I try talking to trade unions and the police. I think that the police still use guidelines from 2010 that are based on the Norwegian “Guide to Identification of Possible Victims of Trafficking”, which is very comprehensive as the Norwegian authorities have been very concerned with trafficking as defined in the Council of Europe convention. Despite this, one policeman who works in the sexual violence division of the police, wrote this morning “Trafficking pertains to organised crime…”.
There appears to be limited understanding on this issue, even amongst people who should know better.