Bankers Case Re-Opened Six Years Later

The so-called Aurum Holding case has been reopened in the appeal court Landsréttur today, Vísir reports. The case revolves around investment bank Glitnir’s loan to FS38, which amounted to ISK 6 billion ($54m/€46m). The loan was believed to be fraudulent, as the loan to FS38 was used to buy a 25.7% share in the British jewelry chain Fons. Both FS38 and Fons were owned by Pálmi Haraldsson.

The charges were originally made in December 2012, but have twisted and turned in the Icelandic judicial system. The Aurum Holding case was examined heavily after the crash of 2008. It culminated with a search warrant, which warranted heavy media interest, and the following case against bankers Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, Lárus Welding and Magnús Arnar Arngrímsson.

Businessman and former banker Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, has been called into court yet again to answer for his dealings in the period leading up to financial crash of 2008. In 2010, Jón Ásgeir made Time magazine’s list of the hundred most influential people in the world for his role in the Icelandic crash. He faces charges on behalf of Glitnir, as Jón Ásgeir was one of the largest shareholders in Glitnir at the time of the transaction. Others facing charges again in the Court of Appeal are Lárus Welding, the ex-CEO of Glitnir, and Magnús Arnar Arngrímsson, the former executive director of the company branch of Glitnir. Glitnir’s name was reverted back to Íslandsbanki on 20 February 2009, after the crash.

Lárus and Magnús had previously been convicted for their actions but appealed the case to the Court of Appeals. Lárus received a one-year sentence while Bjarni was sentenced to two-years in prison. Jón Ásgeir had been cleared of all charges but the district attorney appealed that conviction to the Court of Appeal. The cases are now being resolved in the Court of Appeals.

Seven Year Prison Sentence for Killing Brother

Valur Lýðsson was sentenced to seven years in prison for killing his brother, Ragnar Lýðsson, on the 31st of March, Vísir reports. Valur was found guilty of aggravated assault which led to Ragnar’s death, which included kicking or stamping his head and body.

Detectives gave testimony that blood splatter and injuries suggested that Ragnar had been hit repeatedly while he lay on the floor. Furthermore, Ragnar’s blood was found on Valur’s socks. Kolbrún Benediktsdóttir, who fought the case on behalf of the district attorney, requested that Ragnar receive a sixteen-year prison sentence during the main trial at the end of last August.

Valur’s story

The assault took place at Valur’s house, Gýgjarhóll II in Biskupstungur, on Good Friday. Ragnar and the third brother, Örn, had joined Valur at his home for the night. Valur described that Ragnar had arrived with two bottles of strong liquor. Valur claims he had not taken a sip of alcohol for three months due to his consumption leading to amnesia. He also added that he gets violent when under the influence. The threesome shared the bottles before and after a meal, before Örn headed to bed.

The conversation between Ragnar and Valur turned to future plans for the homestead, which had been owned by the family. Valur didn’t take too kindly to Ragnar’s suggestions, and Ragnar, in turn, didn’t like Valur’s reaction. Valur claims he has no recollection of the fight with his brother. According to Valur, his last memory from the night was his brother’s face. The next morning he woke up and noticed his brother’s body. He immediately called the police to notify them of the situation and stated that he believed he was the killer. He was arrested at the scene. Valur claims there was no ill between the brothers and he had no explanation for how his death happened.

The sentence

A psychiatrist adjudged Valur to be of sound mind and commented that Valur showed clear remorse during the interviews. He did, however, claim amnesia.

It was considered proven that Valur had repeatedly struck his brother with a fist to both head and body. The sentence mentioned that a medical examiner believes that Ragnar’s drunkenness played a part in his death. However, his ribs stung his liver, which would in all likelihood have led to this death on its own, given that he would not have been operated on soon after.

The sentence adjudged that Valur was aware of the fact that repeatedly striking him was dangerous. However, it’s not believed that Valur realized that his strikes, or kicks, would lead to Ragnar’s ribs stinging his liver, with life-threatening consequences. All doubt should be judged in favour of the defendant. Therefore, it was adjudged that it was not proven that the accused intended to kill his brother. For that reason, Valur was not sentenced for manslaughter but rather a dangerous and deliberate assault which led to his death.

The fallout

Ragnar’s four children will receive ISK 3 million ($ 27,000 / € 22,900) each as compensation for their father’s death. The sentence was passed yesterday in the District Court of South Iceland, the lowest of the three Icelandic court branches, the other two being the Supreme Court of Iceland and the Court of Appeal. At this point, neither the district attorney or Valur’s defendant have decided to appeal the case. Valur will remain in custody until the deadline for appeal passes.

Insurance Company Closes Offices Around the Country

Insurance company VÍS is reducing the number of service offices around the country into six, at Selfoss, Egilsstaðir, Akureyri, Sauðárkrókur, Ísafjörður and Reykjavík, RÚV reports. Seven offices will close October 1. According to the company’s website, the change is in accordance with the company’s new vision of becoming a digital service company.

In an announcement on the company’s website, it’s stated that customers increasingly want to conduct their business through telephone and email. The changes in the company structure are intended to better answer that call. According to Helgi Bjarnason, VÍS’s director, they “recently formed a clear vision of VÍS as a digital service company. The changes we’re making are in accordance with that vision and adapt it even more to our customers’ demand for simple, uncomplicated and effective insurance service.”

Andri Ólafsson, communications director at VÍS, told RÚV that four employees will be laid off, either due to their offices closing or organizational changes. Other employees have been offered positions at the new offices but in many cases that will require a significantly increased commute. Negotiations with the staff are ongoing.

The changes to the company’s vision have not been well received, especially outside the capital area, as the changes are believed to disproportionately affect rural areas. According to Austurfrétt, the Fjarðabyggð municipality will take its business elsewhere when their contracts are up in the new year, in direct opposition to VÍS’s decision to close the last office in the municipality. An official memo pointed out that during the past few years, VÍS had been decreasing its services in the area, now closing the last office in the area, despite the fact that Fjarðabyggð is the most populous municipality in the east of Iceland and that the municipality has all its insurances with VÍS. They won’t be extending their contract, instead choosing to work with insurance companies that still operate in the municipality.

At the autumnal meeting of the Federation of Municipalities in West Iceland, a similar decision was reached, Skessuhorn reports. In an announcement, the federation exclaims its displeasure with VÍS’s decision to close all their operations in West Iceland and challenges all municipalities, companies and individuals in the area to rethink their business with the company. The Commercial Federation of Iceland has also issued a statement lamenting the fact that the closures will disproportionately affect the countryside and demanding that VÍS revise their decision.

In an announcement Helgi sent to VÍS agencies, he states that “we see clear signals that our customers increasingly want to use digital ways to communicate with us. Our belief is that this demand will grow and the core of our operations for the next months and years will be to strengthen our service in that area, with our customers’ interest leading the way.” Helgi says the changes are extensive but he’s “convinced that these are necessary steps to achieve the success that we strive for. … I fully understand that in the short term people will have different opinions on the changes but I believe that in the long run, they will serve our customers well.“

Annual Government Office Party Postponed due to Crash Anniversary

The Government Offices annual party was slated to take place Oct 6 but has been postponed until spring, Fréttablaðið reports. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Education Lilja Alfreðsdóttir did not think it prudent to throw a party on that particular date since it marks the tenth anniversary of the country’s economic collapse.

Ten years ago, on Oct 6, emergency laws were put into place. Prime minister Geir H. Haarde notified the nation of the gravity of the situation in a televised address, concluding his statement with the words “Guð blessi Ísland” (may God bless Iceland). This marked the beginning of the economic collapse and in the next few days, Iceland’s banks crashed one by one.

The organization of the event alternates between ministries and this year, it is in the hands of the ministry of education. Lilja expressed her concerns over the date to the Prime minister and they jointly decided to postpone the event.