If people have been comparing the coronavirus pandemic to the plague that swept nations in 1918, financial experts have been saying in the beginning that the economic crisis might be as bad as what happened in 2008. The latter was not dubbed as the Great Recession for no reason, after all. That’s when millions of companies let their employees go because the businesses were not getting enough sales. And when there’s no work, the citizens lose their buying power, which is also bad for them.
Well, the same thing seems to be happening now due to COVID-19. People have been forced to stay at home because the naked eye cannot see the enemy. Countries are already in lockdown for months, thus preventing businesses from operating fully. Worse, since it is a health crisis, it does not seem like we can hold anyone accountable for the pandemic.
This lack of control makes me recall the olden days when Iceland managed to put nine bankers behind bars, who were said to cause the Great Recession in their country.
What Happened Back Then?
Iceland had been under the world spotlight for doing something that even the American and European countries had never done – convict the top members of a vast international bank and send them to prison.
The initial investigation in April 2015 linked a total of nine bankers – all of which were from the Kaupthing Bank – to the tremendous economic downfall that almost broke the country’s strong stature. They were being tried for allegedly manipulating and deceiving everyone by making it appear like there was a unique demand for share purchases.
The defendants had been prosecuted for over a year. Then, the Icelandic Supreme Court announced that these key players in the world of bank and finance would be behind the cold bars for precisely 46 years. Even the jail sentence for Hreiðar Már Sigurðsson, Kaupthing Bank’s ex-director who was already in prison since 2015 for the same case, had been extended for six months.
This news received mixed reviews from various nations, with most of them on the negative side. To be specific, the Europeans got infuriated upon hearing that the banking executives went through the same trial process that regular law offenders experienced. If you take a glance at the history, it is evident that the American and British governments, for instance, have not and will not ever allow their high-profile financiers to be imprisoned and stay for decades in a cell. If the money laundering or market manipulation allegations have been thrown to the bank leaders in the said countries, they will only need to post bail or reimburse a lump sum of money as a fine for the damages they have caused. However, after that, they can return to their old life once again.
The Icelandic government responded to these comments, on the other hand, by saying that they did it to provide justice to their countrymen who suffered due to the wrongdoings of one bank’s executives. Although Iceland managed to get back on its feet, economic-wise, and recover some of the losses incurred from the misleading acts of a few people, they wanted to be fair in the eyes of everyone affected by the situation. After all, where else would the misused money come out of if not from the individuals who held personal or business accounts in the Kaupthing Bank?
Some world leaders continue to look for someone to blame for the coronavirus outbreak up to this day. Kudos to them if they can do that, just like how Iceland made sure that the lawbreakers would get punished for their 2008 economic downfall. Wanting to gain control over the issue is understandable; however, it may be more ideal to find a vaccine than to point fingers at others. That’s the only way to handle the situation.
Stay at home, everyone!