On the Edge with Max Keiser - 12 March 2010 (2/3), interview with Birgitta Jonsdottir, Member of Parliament, about debt repudiation and banker scams. Full series: Part 1, Part 2 (Jonsdottir interview begins here), and Part 3.
Max Keiser: And now it is time to turn to Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Parliament in Iceland, standing up for the people against the banking villains. Birgitta Jonsdottir welcome to On the Edge.
Birgitta: Thanks for having me.
Keiser: All right. Well the people of Iceland have voted "No!" to the Icesave referendum. What was it exactly they voted "No" to?
Birgitta: Well, there has been a lot of speculation regarding about what each "No" meant. I guess in general there were two "No's." There was a "No" to the socialization of private debt. "No" to the bailout. And then there was of course the "No" to the two agreements that had been made. There was a "No" to the second agreement which was worse than the first one. And it was actually amazing how many people turned up because the Icelandic Prime Minister decided to become sulky and because she was not happy about the nation voting. And she said, "I will stay home." And I guess that sent out a different message to other people, because more than 62% showed up, and there was 73 -- almost 74% "No."
Keiser: Well the government is saying that this vote is "meaningless." And that they are going to forge ahead with some kind of deal with the banking terrorists in London and in the Netherlands. Your response. Your thoughts.
Birgitta: Well, it is anything but meaningless. If they want us to go and negotiate with the British and Dutch, of course it gives those negotiating a whole lot much more pressure if you have the whole nation behind you. A majority of the nation behind you. So that they can't just bring anything back home, because then it would be rejected again, obviously. So I am actually going to a meeting in Iceland and meeting with a negotiational team that went to London and was there for less than three weeks trying to forge a deal. Our suggestion is that you can have the bank, or the assets of the old bank, but we refuse to pay interest. And we refuse to give you --because they were actually going to try to make money out of us on top of everything by demanding such high interest that they, it is just unheard of, that you would try to make interest or make money off a nation that is already down. But however the interesting thing is after, like what you heard before, they were using the IMF and the European Union application as a kind of blackmail to get us into accepting whatever deal they brought to us. So now the European Union this morning said that you, they should not be using the European Union application as a sort of blackmail to get us to accept their demands of the UK and the Netherlands. And the IMF has also said that they will not be doing it. So it will be interesting to see if they will follow suit.
Keiser: Do you see any connection with what is going on in Greece right now?
Birgitta: Yes, and I certainly hope that this national referendum
in Iceland will be an encouragement for the people of Greece and for the people of Ireland and the people in the U.S. to demand, to have national referendums on such issues as bailout and moving private debt on to taxpayers.
Keiser: So perhaps part of the motivation for the UK government to keep applying pressure to Iceland is a way to show some strength against their own population, demanding some kind of referendum, and for there to be some kind of return of the money that was stolen from them from their own banking terrorists.
Birgitta: Plus the European Union is now coming up with legislation that will insure that the nation will not have to carry the brunt if they will have an entire financial melt-down like we did. And a lot of experts, including an expert that actually co-wrote many of the legislation around the banking sector has said that it was never intention of the EU legislation that we are following, and is said to be the legislation we are breaking, that that legislation never made about anything, except one thing, and not an entire system meltdown like what we had here.
Keiser: Let me ask this. What effect has the foreign media had in assuaging the Icelandic public to look at what is happening here. In other words, I was interviewed on Icelandic TV, for example, and talking about some of the criminal activity of the Icelandic and UK bankers. Has the foreign media had an effect on the local population?
Birgitta: Absolutely, and we are tremendously thankful for all the support we have had from abroad. It has been really difficult for us, because sometimes we feel that the Icelandic government is working more promoting the ideas of the British and Dutch governments than what the people here are demanding. So it has actually given us a much more balanced picture to hear all the different perspectives and to sense this incredible support.
Keiser: Now here is a question. The assets of Landisbank at the time of the collapse totalled 3.9 billion according to some reports, and this would have been enough to cover the insurance guarantees of the Icesave accounts, so why wasn't this done?
Birgitta: I think that to my understanding the British decided to
compensate more than they were legally obliged to do. And that has has been, there are so many "ifs" in this case. And one of the things that I find to be extremely important right now, they are saying the liquidation committee of the old Landsbanki is saying that 88% will be recoverable compared to what they estimate today. And I don't necessarily trust them because they are very many of the same people who that were responsible for the collapse, within the liquidation committee, so I have been asking since day one, since last summer, to see exactly what are the assets. If we are going to be taking any risks with any shortfall, and I think it is just normal that if we are going to be covering any sort of shortfall with this, that we should take the risk together. The British, the Dutch, and the Icelanders should take the risks together. But we were also been encouraging, and the one thing, the people are never discussed, are actually the people -- the bankers that own that bank, that their names are never mentioned, and they now actually live in London.
Keiser: That's right.
Birgitta: And what is the number five tax haven in the world? It is the City of London.
Keiser: That is right.
Birgitta: So I encourage the British Government to help us track down the monies or the assets these people have and use that to cover the shortfall.
Keiser: Right. If Gordon Brown is going to classify Iceland as terrorist, why can't then Gordon Brown extradite an actual financial terrorist back to Iceland for prosecution under financial terrorism law?
Keiser: Now the former owner of the particular bank we are talking about, Landisbanki, says all the money that he lost went to "money heaven." What is that all about?
Birgitta: Well, you know, I thought I was the poet, but they are much more poetic, these guys, the way they see the world. They actually also talk about the money as something abstract.
Keiser: Well, they [are] "suicide banker."
Keiser: Now usually when a ponzi scheme or a similar fraud goes wrong, it is the operators and the beneficiaries of the scheme that are made to pay. Now has there been any mention at all seeking compensation from those who actually made, we are talking about the same guys now, how would we go after these guys to claw back the money they stole?
Birgitta: Well, I am not entirely sure how to do it, because I think that the Icelandic government has been way too slow, acting, for example, freezing the assets. That should have been the first thing that would have been done when it was obvious, when we got the terrorist act notice. We find it extremely disturbing here in Iceland that the same people who are responsible for Icesave have gotten huge write-offs and they are back in business.
Keiser: Yes, well this is the problem with these anti-terror laws. It is completely subjective. So in other words Gordon Brown can declare one person a terrorist on a whim, and another person is "Oh, my good supporter of the Labour Party is giving me lots of money for my election campaign, they are not a terrorist, even though the means of their wealth is through financial terrorism." It is completely subjective, and that is the problem with these terror laws is that you are putting incredible power into the hands of, you know -- you can make the case that a lot of these politicians are not all that mentally stable, so to give them these types of powers is quite irresponsible. So the UK and the Netherlands are threatening, of course as you mention, to block your entry into the EU. Now I understand the European Commission wants to fast track your entry into the EU. They want to gain access to your claims, Icelandic claims, on to the Arctic. And of course the energy resources in the Arctic. How does that factor into this equation?
Birgitta: Yes, that is actually an extremely interesting point, and I have been pondering a lot about this. However the news said this morning that they are not going to fast-track us, you know, obviously we have almost 80% of the legislation already in place. I have been advocating for, that we pull our application back, because this is not the right time to be applying for EU membership, simply because, you know, both because we are basically on our knees, we are in huge financial trouble. It is not a good time to be negotiating about a good deal. Plus, it is very expensive for us folks when it comes to manpower in all the ministeries, or many of the ministries. Plus it is very financially expensive to go into this process, and it is much more complicated than the general public was actually led to believe. So I think that we should just, if the nation wants to apply, and to go into this process, it should be done maybe in five years or so.
Keiser: Right, so what kind of energy resources are we talking about in the Arctic? Any idea?
Birgitta: Well, they claim that there are huge oil reserves there.
Keiser: OK, so the Icelandic economy, if there are such huge energy resources, why wouldn't Iceland simply tell the EU "forget it," tell the Icesave people "forget it," we are just going to develop our energy resources, and we are going to become a major energy power going forward. Why does even Iceland talk to these peewees in the UK about their little problems because they cannot afford to pay off their bloated real estate mortgages because they are speculative idiots?
Birgitta: Well, you know, that the biggest party in Iceland, the Social Democrats, is very keen on going into the European Union. And maybe that has been one of the problems with dealing, when negotiating about the Icesave deal, because they have been willing to be much softer than necessary. I am willing to play hard ball and just you know while we are negotiating before the referendum I just want to be able to come back home and just say to the Brits, OK, OK, we are going to have our national referendum, let us, you know, have a discussion, discussions about this more.
Keiser: This is all we have time for. We will have to talk about this Arctic Angle at another time. Birgitta Jonsdottir, thanks for being On the Edge.
Birgitta: Thank you so much for having me.
Keiser: That is all the time we have for this edition of On the Edge. I want to thank my guest Stacey Herbert and Birgitta Jonsdottir. If you want to send me an email. please do so: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next week, next time, Max Keiser saying, bye ya'all.