Britain ‘snooped’ on Icelandic officials’ emails to recover cash from broken banks

Published time: November 10, 2013 12:06

AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm

AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm

An Icelandic MP says Britain spied on Iceland while wrestling to rescue its citizens’ cash from collapsed Icelandic banks after the financial crisis. Birgitta Jónsdóttir claims she received a tip-off from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Jónsdóttir, who represents Iceland’s Pirate Party, maintains that the UK’s intelligence agencies systematically intercepted messages sent by Icelandic negotiators when Britain tried to recover savers’ cash held in the country’s banks that went bankrupt.

Jónsdóttir, a prominent WikiLeaks supporter, said that she was tipped off to the spying in 2010 by Assange, Iceland’s Visir newspaper reported.

Having received the tip-off, she warned members of Iceland’s negotiating team not to send emails to each other.

“The UK authorities had very good access to everything that was going on between members of the team. It is the role of intelligence, for example MI5, to spy on other countries, especially if it concerns their national interests. Their duty was to gather information and intelligence about us, and the duty of the Icelandic government was to do everything to protect us against such espionage,” Jónsdóttir told the newspaper.

The revelation could reignite tensions between the UK and Iceland, which were stoked in 2008 when the UK government used anti-terrorism legislation to freeze an Icelandic bank’s assets in the UK. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, Alastair Darling, seized the funds of Landsbanki’s Internet bank, Icesave, to protect UK depositors’ money after the Icelandic government reacted to Landsbanki’s toxic debts by nationalizing the bank.

Last week, Britain got involved in another major spy scandal when it was reported that the UK has been allegedly using its Berlin embassy to spy on the nearby Bundestag, as well as the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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