In the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland's banking sector grew uncontrollably – on paper, its assets were 10 times the size of the country's GDP. Then, it all fell apart: the banks ran out of money, the government had to borrow billions to bail them out, and the economy went into freefall. Who was responsible? The Althing – Iceland's parliament – decided that the prime minister at the time, Geir Haarde, had a lot to answer for: MPs voted to charge him with six different crimes that had allegedly contributed to the crisis.
Yesterday, Haarde was found not guilty of all but one charge – that one was his failure to call emergency cabinet meetings. He could have been jailed for up to two years: instead, he was let off scot-free, and the state will pick up the bill for his defence. Haarde contends that both he and most of the bankers involved at the time "did not realise that the situation was as dire as it was". He has said he is considering an appeal.
So far, not a single government leader has been called to account for a crisis whose effects are still being felt across the world. Astonishingly, Haarde maintains that the rapid growth of Iceland's banks would not have been a problem, if not for their recklessness and a worldwide squeeze on credit. Lessons learned? Not this time.
Further reading: The blame does not just lie with Iceland – learn more about the role of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.