British media: "High-flying playboys, corrupt politics, Russian money in Iceland" Skip to content

British media: “High-flying playboys, corrupt politics, Russian money in Iceland”

TV-station, Stöd 2, reported yesterday on its evening news broadcast on the “comprehensive coverage of the Baugur story in the British media.”

Stöð 2 said the British media “maintains that a romantic break-up, jealousy og political antagonism are the motivations behind the investigation of the office of the National Commissioner of the Police of Baugur”.

In its introduction, Stöd 2 summarizes the coverage, “It’s fair to say that British jounalists paint a curious picture of the Icelandic nation in their writing today. The stories suggest that Icelandic politics is corrupt and Icelandic companies are being financed by Russian money. The narratives are spiced with colorful descriptions of the cast of characters in the Baugur case.”

The Sunday Times and the Financial Times depict Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson as a decadent playboy who used company money to finance luxury yachts and parties.

According to the Financial Times, “Some of the charges are expected to relate to what some call his ‘playboy’ lifestyle. The initial allegations against him refer to contested ownership of a luxury pleasure cruiser in South Beach, Miami, which was shared with a key prosecution witness, a former business colleague and a family friend called Jon Gerald Sullenberger. Documents from a US court in Dade County, Florida, issued two years ago, give a glimpse into the lifestyle. In these documents, Mr Sullenberger says Mr Johannesson paid $19,260 to a Florida female escort service. There were also frequent business trips to the boat.”

Stöd 2 also observes that the Daily Mirror mentions “call girls in parties on a Baugur yacht” in its coverage.

Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson and the five other defendants have denied all charges.

According to the Stöd 2 report, The Times suggests that Jón Ásgeir’s rise to fame and fortune rubbed the Icelandic government the wrong way. He is quoted saying that several families with strong ties to the government governed behind the scenes in Iceland until recently. Jón Ásgeir insinuates that the government’s bad blood towards him was the driving force behind the police investigation. The Independent echos this sentiment and writes that Jón Ásgeir and the former prime minister and current foreign minister Davíd Oddsson have been engaged in a long-running feud.

Davíd Oddsson said on Stöð 2 in late June that the Icelandic courts would reject any charges arising during the course of the investigation if they were unfounded. The last two nominations for the Supreme Court of Iceland have been especially controversial. The minister of justice appointed a close relative of Davíd Oddsson, Olafur Börkur Thorvaldsson, and a long-time associate, Jón Steinar Gunnlaugsson. Before he was appointed to the Supreme Court, Jón Steinar Gunnlaugsson acted as the attorney of Jón Gerald Sullenberger.

Stöd 2 reports the Independent writing that “Jón Ásgeir has not only been attacked by Icelandic authorities but also by the ex-girlfriend of his father, Jónína Benediktsdóttir”. According to Stöd 2, The Independent describes Jónína as the “femme fatale” who started the police investigation of Baugur. A source quoted in the article says that her attacks are based on anger and bitterness towards Jón Ásgeir and his family.

The Times describes Jón Ásgeir as being under attack not only from the authorities but also from his father’s former girlfriend, Jónina Benediktsdóttir. It reports of “damning article in an Icelandic newspaper” where Jónína Benediktsdóttir claimed that Baugur’s increasing influence was threatening Iceland. “Those men believe that everything they desire is for sale,” she wrote.

Stöd 2 interviewed Jónína Benediktsdóttir yesterday. She said that she was flattered by allegations that she had started the police investigation, but the case had nothing to do with her and her ex-beau Jóhannes Jónsson, Jón Ásgeir’s father. Jónína called the allegations in the British media “abuse of the power of money”, she had heard it all before, the allegations revealed the mindset of certain “little boys” whom she did not wish to argue with in the media. She had criticized their power in Iceland, but apparently any criticism was being spun to suggest sinister motives.

The Independent compares the business climate in Iceland to that in Russia, and the Times claims it has heard allegations that Baugur was being backed by Russian money. Baugur chairman, Hreinn Loftsson, denied that allegation saying, “[t]here is no Russian money. It is rubbish. Iceland is a rich society.”

The Independent reports, “The fact is, speculation has been swirling for some time around Baugur and the other Icelandic businesses and businessmen who are forging a strong presence on the global stage. ‘There have been questions over where its funds are coming from,’ says one UK retail analyst. ‘It’s hard to see the obvious way, especially when you consider Iceland has about the same population as Coventry.’ For those not familiar with the West Midlands, that’s around 300,000.”

Stöd 2 concluded its summary by mentioning how the Independent speculates about the consequences of the Baugur affair for other Icelandic companies operating abroad. In that context, the Independent specifically mentioned Burdarás, Bakkavör, Icelandair (FL Group), Hvíta húsið, Kauthing, Landsbanki og Íslandsbanki.


From popcorn seller to jet-setting playboy

(Financial Times, July 7)


Northern exposure: how indictments lift the lid on tensions in a changing Iceland Deregulation creates a new breed of banker

(Financial Times, July 7)


Baugur boss: no more big deals until my name is cleared

(Sunday Times, July 10),,2095-1687768,00.html


Icelandic soap

(Sunday Times, July 10),,2095-1687752_1,00.html


Politics, envy and feuding slow the Viking invasion

Multiple fraud charges have scuppered another deal for the Baugur boss.

(Sunday Times, July 10),,2095-1687561,00.html


Somerfield’s already gone as cracks start to emerge in the Icelandic empire

Fraud charges and intrigue swirl around Baugur as it is forced to pull back from its latest British invasion.

(The Independent, July 10)


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