As it turned out, he was cleared of the three most serious charges and spared significant punishment. But he was found guilty on one count – failing to keep his cabinet fully informed during the 2008 financial crisis – and he was obliged to endure criminal proceedings against him. This makes Iceland’s former Prime Minister, Geir Haarde, the only head of state whose head rolled because of misdoing during the recent economic meltdown.
Because Iceland’s fiscal balloon had grown all out of proportion to its small size, when it burst it was traumatic. The country’s three major banks collapsed in a period of a week. Nevertheless it’s worth pointing out that only this one small state followed its outrage against the authorities by actually doing something about it.
The U.S. has been, to put it politely, slow to prosecute or even pursue those who might be held accountable for what everyone agrees was, is, the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. Icelanders, in contrast, channeled their anger, chasing down not only public officials, but corporate ones as well. The country’s collective outrage was ultimately directed into the legal system, which has now been marshaled against an array of protagonists, including among others the top executives of all of Iceland’s leading banks. Before this drama comes to an end, it’s possible that fully 90 people might be implicated to the point of being indicted.
I cannot say whether the charges being leveled in Iceland are justified, or whether those being indicted will ultimately be found guilty. What I can say is that at least one western country is trying its level and legal best to hold those who were in charge during the financial fiasco responsible.