Tycoon Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson Guilty Of Tax Evasion

7.2.2013
Words by Catharine Fulton
The Supreme Court of Iceland ruled today that ex-Baugur boss Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson was guilty of tax evasion for filing erroneous tax returns on 172 million ISK of earnings and also convicted him on several counts of tax irregularities related to Baugur.

Also convicted alongside Jón Ásgeir were his sister, Kristin Jóhannesdóttir, and former Baugur employee Tryggvi Jónsson, The Telegraph reports. Jóhannesson received a 12-month suspended sentence and was fined 62 million ISK, Kristín received a 3-month suspended sentence, and Tryggvi was handed an 18-month suspended sentence and was fined 32 million ISK.

"All the defendants are found guilty of a major infringement of tax laws. In determining the penalty for their actions, the delay in the case proceedings has to be taken into consideration," the presiding justice said.

For his part, Jón Ásgeir called the size of the fines “peanuts” and, following the ruling, said “They didn't find the big crime they wanted and nobody goes to jail," Reuters reports.

Further legal battles await Jón Ásgeir in relation to his involvement as the largest shareholder in failed bank Glitnir. He stands accused of improperly influencing the bank regarding a loan of 1.2 billion GBP granted to Baugur just prior to the financial collapse. For this charge prosecutors are seeking six years imprisonment.

This is not the first time that Jón Ásgeir has faced legal woes. He and his father, Jóhannes Jónsson, were charged with 40 counts of tax and accounting irregularities, fraud and embezzlement in 2005. In 2007 he was found guilty of breaching book-keeping rules.

Baugur was an investment company that was founded by Jón Ásgeir and his father, Jóhannes, with the establishment of the supermarket chain Bónus in 1989. Over the years the Baugur Group acquired Hagkaup, and franchised or acquired majority holding of several large brands, like Karen Millen, Debenhams, Top Shop, and Hamleys, among others. They also controlled 365 media company, which owns six television channels, five radio stations, one newspaper (Fréttablaðið), and five periodicals.

While Baugur Group went bust in 2009 (under a spiderweb of circumstances typical to the financial collapse that cannot be summarized here), one of its arms, Baugur-Iceland, continues to exist today under the name Hagar and manages many of ex-Baugur’s retail holdings.


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