Tax Authorities Open Samherji Case

Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson

Communication has begun between Samherji and The Directorate of Tax Investigations in Iceland and the District Prosecutor, RÚV reports. The Icelandic fishing company will be ceasing operations in Namibia within a few months, sooner than previously stated. Samherji has been embroiled in a bribery scandal in the African country since last month.

Samherji’s acting CEO Björgólfur Jóhannsson told RÚV today that the company had decided to cease operations in Namibia in 2017, but recently accelerated the final stages of that process. Björgólfur says that communication has been opened between the company and the Directorate of Tax Investigations in Iceland as well as the District Prosecutor.

The six Namibians who are suspected of fraud and money laundering in connection with the Samherji case appeared in court this afternoon where their charges were read to them. The Namibian reports that their charges include fraud and tax evasion as well as money laundering.

Investigate Navy’s Role in Whale Beachings

whale

The last two years have been record-breaking in the number of whales beached on Iceland’s shores, Vísir reports. MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson wants to know whether the incidents are connected to increased submarine activity in Iceland’s waters, and in particular, the use of sonar equipment. Though an international investigation into whale beaching in the area is ongoing, it has proved difficult to obtain information on military activity that could be affecting whales’ behaviour.

Whale beachings more frequent

In the last decade, 400 whales have been beached along Iceland’s coast. Of those 400, 200 were beached in the last two years alone. Andrés Ingi addressed the incidents last September, inquiring whether sonar from submarines and navy ships could be behind the rise in incidents. He also asked whether the use of sonobuoys, ejected from aircraft or ships to search for submarines, were causing whales (which use sonar to navigate) to become disoriented.

Military information withheld

Andrés Ingi’s enquiry was addressed in a statement from the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, which reads “a multinational study is underway to investigate the causes of unusual numbers of bottlenose whale and beaked whale beachings in 2018 on the shores of many countries in the North Atlantic, including here in Iceland. The presence of warships and naval exercises that took place in the summer of 2018 are considered in that regard. However, it has been difficult to obtain information from military authorities.” The statement also remarks that no research has been conducted in Iceland on the effects of marine traffic which uses powerful sonar.

In response to the statement, Andrés Ingi has submitted an inquiry to the Minister for Foreign Affairs asking how often aircraft have taken off from Keflavík Airport to search for submarines in the past five years and how many sonobuoys such planes deploy on average. He also inquires into the frequency, volume, and typical duration of the sonar equipment used in such activities, and whether its effect on marine life, particularly whales, has been researched.

Sonar could disorient

“Anti-submarine aircraft works in such a way that the aircraft flies low over the ocean’s surface and is shooting down buoys that emit sonar signals like whales use to navigate in the ocean,” Andrés stated. “So it could very well be that it has an effect on whales getting lost and coming up on land.”

Andrés Ingi expressed his understanding of the fact that some military information must be kept private, stating, however, “the fundamental question must be something that the government wants to answer. The fact that the navy is shooting down loud buoys around the country which could be herding whales up onto land.”

Oslo Tree Lit on First Day of Advent

Oslo Christmas Tree Reykjavík

Reykjavík’s so-called “Oslo tree” was lit in Austurvöllur square to mark the first day of Advent yesterday. The tradition marks the beginning of the Christmas season for many Reykjavík residents. RÚV reported first.

Norway’s capital has been sending Reykjavík a Christmas tree annually since 1951, as a sign of friendship between the two cities. While originally sent from Norway, in recent years, the gifted tree has actually come from Heiðmörk forest on the outskirts of Reykjavík.

Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson had the honour of lighting the tree’s decorations alongside seven-year-old Jónas Hrafn Gunnarsson, who is Norwegian-Icelandic. Two of Iceland’s thirteen Yule Lads made an appearance at the lighting ceremony, to the delight of children attending.

In both 2014 and 2015, Iceland’s winter proved too much for the Oslo trees, which were damaged by storms and had to be replaced.

The Oslo tree features new decorations each year. This year’s decorations can be seen on the photo below.

Oslo Christmas Tree Reykjavík

Immigrants Over 14% of Population

Polish Mini Market Breiðholt

Immigrants in Iceland numbered 50,727 as of January 1, 2019, or 14.1% of the population. This represents a significant increase from the previous year’s figure of 12.6%. The number of second-generation immigrants also rose from 4,861 in 2018 to 5,263 in 2019. The data comes from Statistics Iceland.

People born in Poland were the largest group of immigrants in 2019, as in previous years, numbering 19,172 as of January 1 of this year, or 38.1% of the total immigrant population. The second largest group were immigrants born in Lithuania (2,884), followed by those born in the Philippines (1,968).

As of January 1, 2019, 63.6% of first- and second-generation immigrants were living in the Reykjavík capital region. The region with the highest proportion of immigrants was, however, the Southwest, with 26.6% of its residents being first- or second-generation immigrants. The Westfjords came second, with just under 20% of residents falling into these categories.

Statistics Iceland defines an immigrant as an individual born abroad with both parents and all grandparents also foreign born. A second-generation immigrant is born in Iceland to immigrant parents. A person with foreign background has one parent of foreign origin.

The full report is available in English on Statistics Iceland’s website.