Several prominent businessmen and a famous media personality have been let go, resigned from their positions, or gone on leave following allegations of sexual assault from a young woman, RÚV reports. In an interview on the podcast Eigin konur last January 4, 24-year-old Vitalia Lazareva stated she was sexually assaulted by three men in a hot tub last December 2020, friends of her lover at the time, Arnar Grant.
While Vitalia did not name the men in the interview, she did so on social media. They include Þórður Már Jóhannesson, who has since resigned from his position as chairman of the board of Festi hf., Iceland’s fourth-largest company. Another of the men, Ari Edwald, was first asked to take leave, but was later fired from his position as CEO of Ísey Export, a daughter company of MS Iceland Dairies. Company representatives stated they had “unspecific” information about Ari’s involvement in the alleged incident since October 2021. He was not asked to take leave or fired until after Vitalia’s January 4 interview.
Hreggviður Jónsson, founder and primary owner of Veritas Capital ehf., resigned from the company’s board after being named in the allegations. In a statement sent to Icelandic media, Hreggviður wrote he regretted “not stepping out of the situation” but added that he did not break any laws. Þórður Már and Ari Edwald have not commented on the allegations.
In a separate incident that Vitalia described in the interview, Arnar pressured her to perform sexual acts with Icelandic media personality Logi Bergmann after he walked in on the pair together. Logi has denied the accusations in a Facebook post though he admitted to “going into a room I shouldn’t have gone into,” calling his actions “tactless and shameful.” He has also announced he would go on leave from his position.
Case could impact future generations
Professor of Sociology Ingólfur V. Gíslason says Vitalia’s case is among the most important to have occurred in Iceland in the past several decades when it comes to the status of men and women. Ingólfur says the MeToo movement has caused societal changes in Iceland. “The follow-up of what just happened there and that all of the perpetrators, or those who were indicated, have to step down. That is very significant. These are not just some unknown men who are accused,” he stated. According to Ingólfur, survivors who speak out are not looking for revenge, rather acknowledgement and apologies.
He added that he hopes the incident will impact future generations in Iceland. “The most serious problem in the relationship and status of men and women in Iceland is the violence that women have had to suffer at the hands of men. It’s not until we stop that and make society as safe for women as for men that we can truly hope there will be equality in Iceland.”