Two current and two former members of Icelandic band Sigur Rós have released a statement urging the Icelandic government to review Icelandic tax law, which they call “outdated” and “broken.” The band members were charged with tax fraud between the years 2011-2014. Despite full co-operation in the investigation that followed and paying all charges and fines, their case remains open and they face additional punishment through the District Prosecutor, which they assert is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Throughout the case, the band members have maintained their innocence and said that they had, in good faith, left their financial affairs to an accountant who mishandled them. According to the band members’ statement, they “trusted in the judicial process, which we truly believed would exonerate us of any wilful wrongdoing.” Despite obeying all rulings and paying arrears and fines, the band members still face additional punishment at the hands of the District Court.
Double Punishment a Violation of Human Rights
The band asserts that the District Court’s case constitutes a second trial for the same offence, and thus violates Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the prohibition of repeated proceedings and punishment. The European Court of Human Rights has previously ruled against Iceland in comparable cases.
In an interview published recently in The Guardian, the band said the case had caused them to lose faith in their country and the three who live in Iceland were considering moving abroad.
The band members’ full statement follows.
Since we discovered that our financial advisors had seriously misled us over our tax liabilities for the period 2011-2014 we have trusted in the judicial process, which we truly believed would exonerate us of any wilful wrongdoing.
We have always provided our full cooperation to all investigations and reached an agreement with the Icelandic tax authorities to pay what we owed plus interest and fines.
However, in the intervening years we have become victims of an unjust and draconian prosecution by the Icelandic government who are unfairly seeking to portray us as deliberate tax evaders, something we have always and continue to strongly deny. We have been charged and tried twice for the same offence, our assets have been frozen for years now, we are facing potential financial ruin and as such we are calling on the Icelandic government to revoke these outdated double jeopardy tax laws, which have affected numerous Icelandic businesses.
The Icelandic government has now paused any further prosecutions as a result of these concerns but is still actively pursuing over 100 open cases, which is contradictory and makes no sense at all. We want to shine a light on systemic failures rather than individuals. We know that the legislation is broken and that the courts have their hands tied at present.
This needs to be urgently addressed. We are fortunate to have a platform in order to speak out about this and we do so not just for ourselves but for the many others who have been caught up in this shameful failure of the Icelandic legal system, which does nothing but embarrass our country.