Iceland mulls bank secrecy reform

REYKJVAVIK: Iceland may tighten its banking secrecy laws, the prime minister said Tuesday, after it emerged that the major bank Kaupthing granted big loans just days before being nationalised.

According to a document published on the Wikileaks website, Kaupthing granted several major shareholders non-guaranteed loans worth several million euros just before it was taken over last year amid grave financial turmoil.

"It cannot be allowed, in the situation we are experiencing in society at this time where everything needs to be open and transparent, that the bank secrecy act is used to hide market abuses," Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir told a news conference.

"Therefore we have been looking into whether we should review the bank secrecy act."

The internal document, dated September 25, 2008, appeared on the Wikileaks website last week despite Kaupthing's protests that the publication breached Iceland's strict banking secrecy laws.

Iceland's government nationalised Kaupthing and two other major banks in October 2008 after borrowing beyond their means led them to collapse amid global economic turmoil.

A fraud investigation into the banking collapse was launched by Icelandic authorities last February.