Bribery Investigators Head to Namibia

Þorsteinn Már Samherji

Officials from Iceland travelled to Namibia last week to participate in the questioning of witnesses in the Samherji bribery case. District public prosecutor Ólafur Þór Hauksson and investigators also met with the Namibian Anti Corruption Commission, RÚV reports.

Nine Icelanders investigated

In the fall of 2019, the story broke that one of Iceland’s largest seafood companies, Samherji, had allegedly bribed Namibian government officials to gain access to lucrative fishing grounds, while also taking advantage of international loopholes to avoid taxes. The story was reported collaboratively by Kveikur, Stundin (now Heimildin), and Al Jazeera Investigates, after months of investigations sparked by the confessions of whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson, a former project manager for Samherji in Namibia.

The district public prosecutor’s office began its investigation in November of 2019. Nine Icelandic individuals are being investigated, including Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, CEO of Samherji. He briefly stepped aside when the news broke, but returned as CEO shortly after. In Namibia, ten people have been charged with receiving bribes from Samherji in exchange for fishing quotas. Among them are two former ministers from the Namibian cabinet, the chairman of Fishcor, the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia, and its CEO.

Prolonged investigation

Ólafur Þór said that the trip was mutually beneficial for both Icelandic and Namibian authorities and that the next step would be to work through the information collected during the trip. “The case is becoming clearer, the longer we get into the investigation,” he said, but did not comment on when his office will close the investigation, which is now entering its fifth year. The duration has been criticised by both the Icelandic public and the defendants themselves.

Paulus Noa, manager of the Anti Corruption Commission, said that the Icelandic delegation would help Namibian authorities with the investigation of their side of the scandal, which has been dubbed the Fishrot case. He added that the goal is to secure the prosecution of the individuals involved, regardless of their nationality.

12-Year-Old Girl Suffers Injuries Following Drain-Cleaner Attack

Metropolitan Police

A twelve-year-old girl suffered severe facial injuries following an attack by a peer with powdered drain cleaner, RÚV reports. The attacker and his cohort, known to the victim, appear to have been inspired by dangerous content on YouTube. A detective with the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police urges parents to monitor their children’s online activity.

Nearby residents provided first aid

A twelve-year-old girl suffered severe facial injuries on Monday after being attacked by a peer, who threw powdered drain cleaner in her face. The incident took place on the grounds of a primary school in Reykjavik.

Having been struck by the substance in both her eyes and mouth, the girl managed to knock on the door of a nearby resident shortly after the attack. They provided her with first aid and called an ambulance.

Guðrún Jack, a detective with the Capital Area Police, told RÚV yesterday that this was the first case of its kind: “We, of course, take this very seriously. It’s obviously very dangerous, and something that the attackers had seen on YouTube.”

As reported by RÚV, the girl knew the boys who attacked her. They have been interviewed by the police and have provided statements. Guðrún revealed that the boys had searched for information on how to make a bomb on YouTube.

“They had been experimenting with bombs using drain cleaner, mixing the substance with water, putting it in a bottle, and shaking it. This causes an explosion. But in this case, the assailant was carrying the substance in a bag and threw it directly at the girl,” Guðrún noted.

Could have been much worse

The girl’s injuries could have been much worse: “I understand from her father that permanent eye damage was prevented thanks to those who assisted her. They reacted just in time.”

The case is under investigation and has been referred to Child Protection Services. Guðrún says the girl is convalescing and urges parents to monitor their children’s online activity: “We fault the parents, of course. That’s just the way it is. It’s our responsibility as parents to guide our children. And we must do our best in that regard.”

No Leads on Assault of Reykjavík Conference Attendee

The gathering began with a minute of silence for the events in Norway

An attendee of the National Queer Organisation of Iceland (Samtökin ’78) conference was taken to the emergency department after being assaulted in downtown Reykjavík on Tuesday evening. The police are investigating the assault as a possible hate crime but are currently without substantial leads.

Other participants notably shaken

An attendee of the National Queer Organisation of Iceland (Samtökin ’78) conference was assaulted in downtown Reykjavík on Tuesday evening and subsequently taken to the emergency department. Authorities were alerted and promptly arrived at the scene. The victim’s condition, as confirmed by the organisation on Wednesday, is stable.

A statement from the organisation noted that the incident had notably shaken those who attended the conference, which was co-hosted by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the National Queer Organisation. The event saw the participation of over a hundred delegates from leading LGBTQ+ organisations across the Nordic nations.

The organisation also highlighted the fact that it had recently found cause to heighten security measures at conferences such as these – and had ensured the presence of security personnel throughout the conference’s proceedings.

Investigated as possible hate crime

Daníel E. Arnarsson, Executive Director of the National Queer Organisation, told RÚV on Wednesday that the victim – while leaving the conference venue located in a hotel – had visible LGBTQ+ symbols on them.

“This is a delegate of an LGBTQ+ conference, associated with an LGBTQ+ organisation, who was assaulted in the heart of Reykjavik. It is essential for the police to consider the seriousness of this incident,” Daníel stated.

The police acknowledged on Wednesday that they had initiated an investigation into the assault. While it’s still in its preliminary phase, one focal point of their inquiry is determining whether this incident can be classified as a hate crime. As of now, the authorities confirmed that they have not arrested anyone in connection to the assault and are currently without substantial leads. However, they are in the process of analysing CCTV footage from the night in question.

Milestones in LGBTQ rights

The National Queer Association of Iceland (Samtökin ’78) was founded in 1978. Over the decades, it has not only played a role in advocating for the rights and acceptance of the queer community in the country but has also worked to promote LGBTQ+ visibility, education, and support services, solidifying Iceland’s reputation as one of the most progressive countries for queer rights globally.

Iceland has undergone significant legislative changes in regard to queer rights throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1940, the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships in 1996, and the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2010.

Woman Detained in Connection With Man’s Death in Reykjavík

police station reykjavík

A woman in her thirties has been placed in custody after a man was discovered deceased in an apartment building in Reykjavík last Saturday, Vísir reports. No further details on the investigation have been released.

Resuscitation efforts proved futile

On Saturday evening, the Capital Area Police was notified of an incident in an apartment building in East Reykjavík, Vísir reports.

Upon their arrival, the police discovered a non-responsive man in his fifties. Despite immediate resuscitation efforts, the man was later pronounced dead at the National Hospital.

A woman in her thirties was subsequently arrested and taken into custody. Yesterday, the Reykjavik District Court granted the Capital Area Police’s request, based on investigative interests, for the woman to remain in custody until September 27.

As per a police announcement, further details regarding the ongoing investigation will not be disclosed at this juncture.

This is the fourth time this year that a person has been placed under custody in a suspected murder case.

Police Drop Blood Mare Investigation

Icelandic horse

Icelandic police have dropped the investigation into the treatment of mares during blood extraction, Bændablaðið reports. The ill-treatment of mares during the practice was first brought to light in 2021 by foreign animal welfare organisations.

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) had previously investigated the treatment that appeared in a video that the animal welfare organisations AWF and TBZ published on YouTube in November 2021. MAST requested more information and unedited footage from the animal welfare organisations but did not receive it. A statement released by AWF/TBZ spokespersons in December 2021 said they would not hand over any unedited videos to MAST, but were willing to cooperate if a public investigation took place. MAST therefore referred the case to the police for further investigation at the end of January 2022.

The case was dismissed a year later, or at the end of January 2023, according to information from the South Iceland Police Department. The police repeatedly tried to obtain additional data from the animal protection organisations, which hid behind German laws that did not require them to hand over the data.

However, sources say that the representatives of the animal welfare organisations were in fact willing to hand over the data, but only if a legal request was made, in order to ensure the best evidentiary value of the data. Such a request was, however, never received from Iceland.

Since the 1980s, horse farmers in Iceland have been able to gain extra income by extracting the hormone Equine Chorionic Gonadotropin (eCG) from their pregnant mares. The hormone extracted from pregnant mares is mainly used to boost fertility in other farm animals. Only a handful of countries operate blood farms besides Iceland: Russia, Mongolia, China, Uruguay, and Argentina. Iceland tightened regulations on blood mare farms last year.

Confesses to Killing in Manslaughter Case

police station reykjavík

A girl who was released from custody last night in connection with the death of a 27-year-old man filmed the incident on her phone, RÚV reports. She asserts that the conflict was mostly between two individuals and that she did not inflict violence on the victim. One of the four suspects in the case has confessed to killing the victim, who was a Polish national.

Around midnight on April 20, law enforcement was tipped off to a confrontation between four people and the victim in the parking lot of Fjarðarkaup grocery store in Hafnarfjörður, a town in the Reykjavík capital area. Police arrived shortly after to find the victim, who was transported to the emergency room with several stab wounds and pronounced dead shortly after. The four suspects are Icelandic youth, three male and one female. The oldest suspect is 18 and the other three are under 18 years of age.

Read More: Manslaughter Case Raises Concerns Among Immigrant Community

The 17-year-old girl was remanded in custody until Thursday, April 27 but Landsréttur Court of Appeal repealed the ruling yesterday. The ruling states that the girl reported that shortly after she and her two companions exited a restaurant in Hafnarfjörður, one of them (who remains in custody) and the victim got into a fight. She stated that the conflict was mainly between the two of them and that she stayed 5-8 metres away during the fight and recorded it on her phone, as her parents had advised her to do if she found herself in an unsafe situation.

The phone recordings are said to support the girl’s statement and are being considered key evidence in the case. Police have completed all interrogations of all suspects in the case and believe they have a clear picture of the sequence of events that led to the man’s death.

Body Discovered Near Borgarnes, Investigation Underway

police station Hlemmur

A body was discovered on a beach not far from the town of Borgarnes, in West Iceland, yesterday, Vísir reports. The police will update the media as soon as more information is available.

An investigation underway

Yesterday evening, a passerby reported the discovery of a body to the police. According to the police authorities, the case is under investigation.

“We are looking into this discovery and awaiting results. When more information is available, we will begin by speaking to relatives,” Ásmundur Kristinn Ásmundsson, Assistant Chief of Police in West Iceland told Vísir.

Ásmundur stated that it was necessary to follow all legal procedures and to attain conclusive results regarding the person’s identity. The police will update the media as soon as the results of the investigation are available.

Icelandic Police Investigating Possible Child Abduction on Ship

A 15-year-old girl was found on board the fishing ship Grímsnes GK-555 in the company of a 24-year-old man, RÚV reports. The ship’s captain maintains that the crew did not know of the girl’s presence on board and that the man responsible has been fired. Police are investigating the case as a potential child abduction.

Westman Islands police began a search for the girl last Saturday when her parents reached out to them. She was believed to have left the islands by ferry late on Saturday. The Grímsnes GK-555 left Heimaey harbour on the Westman Islands at 4:00 AM on Sunday morning.

Police contacted ship

The ship’s captain Sigvaldi Hólmgrímsson maintains that none of the crew knew that the girl was on board the ship. According to Sigvaldi, police contacted the ship due to a suspicion that the girl was on board. At that point, he asked the 24-year-old man, who confessed to having brought the girl onto the ship. According to RÚV, Sigvaldi is related to the man who brought the girl on board.

Suspected of child abduction

The 24-year-old man was arrested at the Njarðvík harbour on Sunday but was released after questioning. According to police, he is suspected of violating Article 193 of Iceland’s Penal Code, which addresses the abduction of minors. The article outlines that such violations are punishable by fine or up to 16 years in prison, or a life sentence.

The suspect was previously convicted to 12 months in prison for violent offences and threats against two former girlfriends. Sigvaldi stated that he knew of the man’s previous convictions but decided to give him a chance on the ship as he appeared to be working on reforming his behaviour. He was, however, fired after this incident.

Sizeable Reduction in the Number of Open Sexual Assault Cases

Metropolitan Police

The number of open sexual offence cases within the sexual offence department of the Capital Area Police and the prosecutor’s office has decreased by 37%. The decrease follows increased funding to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences.

Good progress over a brief period

In an announcement today, the Capital Area Police stated that increased funding and more staff had served to expedite the processing of sexual offences. As noted in the announcement, there were 401 open cases on September 1 of last year. That number has now been reduced to 235. At the same time, the office received several new cases; however, during this four-and-a-half month period, the police concluded the investigation of 239 cases.

In an interview with Fréttablaðið today, Halla Bergþóra Björnsdóttir, Chief of Police with the Capital Area Police, stated that it was pleasing to observe such good results in such a short time. “We have not stopped and will continue to look for ways to shorten the procedure time for sexual offences while at the same time ensuring the quality of investigations.”

Halla added that the increased budget had made a significant difference.

“It’s important that we’re measuring our results, which helps us identify bottlenecks. There are many people involved in the handling of these cases at the office. It is and has been our goal to further improve police services within this important field of policing.

Processes reviewed

The increased budget was spent on increasing the number of staff and altering working methods. The announcement notes that methods have been revised with the aim of expediting the investigation of cases. The cooperation between the sexual offence department, on the one hand, and the digital investigation department, on the other, was increased and improved in order to shorten the investigation time of electronic data related to sexual offences.

Furthermore, part of the budget was allocated to bolstering the police’s service department. Finally, a dashboard was introduced to monitor the progress of cases within the sexual offence department and the prosecutor’s office.

Pornographic Film Created in Ambulance Under Investigation

iceland ambulance

A pornographic film is under investigation for having been recorded in an Icelandic ambulance, reports Fréttablaðið.

Authorities state they are taking the matter seriously and that an investigation into the matter has begun.

According to Fréttablaðið, the capital region fire department was alerted to the existence of the video via a confidential tip.

The incident is significant as the sale and production of pornography are illegal in Iceland. The incident also raises concerns over security, and how the individuals responsible for the pornographic film were able to gain access to the ambulance in question.

The film in question features a woman posing as a patient and a man as an emergency medical technician.

Sources report that after an internal investigation, it was concluded that although the ambulance in question is indeed Icelandic, it was not operated by the capital area fire department.

Authorities have concluded that the ambulance is either from another municipality, or else an older vehicle that has been sold to a private individual.

The incident was an occasion for some moral outrage, with some condemning the use of a vehicle used to treat the sick and dying for such purposes.

Despite the outrage, however, there is no indication that the ambulance is currently in service.

Spokesperson for the capital area fire department, Ásdís Gíslason, stated: “The issue is being taken very seriously, and we regret having been involved in this matter.”

Update: Video Likely Filmed at Skógarhlið in Reykjavík

According to the latest information, the ambulance in question was located in the fire department facility in Skógarhlið.

Since the matter has been reported in the media, authorities have received numerous tips. Now, they state that several clues from the video indicate that it was indeed recorded at a fire department building in Reykjavík.

Birgir Finnsson, assistant fire chief in the capital area, stated that there are no security cameras at Skógarhlið, as it had not previously been considered necessary.

When asked if other individuals had access to the facility, he stated that although “the building is of course just for use by the fire department, there is something going on that we’re looking into.”