Former Minister of Justice Björn Bjarnason appears to be unfazed about being sued for libel by former tycoon Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, believing that the publicity will be great for sales.
As reported, Björn wrote a book about Baugur Group, the brainchild of Jón Ásgeir, who used to be its CEO. The first printing of the book said Jón Ásgeir had been convicted of embezzlement – which is untrue, as he had been convicted of accounting fraud. Björn apologised to the media and corrected the error for the second printing of the book, called Rosabaugur yfir Íslandi.
While Jón Ásgeir’s lawyer contends that there are other errors in the book, and that they plan to sue for libel, Björn appears completely unfazed by the impending lawsuit. In fact, he seems downright delighted.
DV reports Björn as saying, “When it was pointed out to me, my slip of the pen in writing ’embezzlement’ instead of ‘major accounting fraud’, which is punished in the same way embezzlement is, I corrected this at once by apologising publicly. In the second printing of the book, this has also been corrected. I cannot, in reality, say anything more about the matter.”
But Björn did, in fact, have more to say on the matter, adding, “The Baugur people wanted to censor me in parliament, and now they want to censor my book. But it is selling well, and I have been asked whether I would write this book for a foreign market, so that people outside of Iceland can get to know the business practices of Baugur, their business history, and the political struggle detailed in the book. I have not taken a decision on the matter but a libel suit on behalf of Jón Ásgeir would certainly help sales of the book.”
The Independence Party, from which Björn hails, has had a long history of conflict with Baugur Group in general, and Jón Ásgeir in particular. This was best illustrated in 2004, when the party introduced legislation designed to break up Jón Ásgeir’s control of Iceland’s media. The bill was not signed by the president, and the Independence Party withdrew the proposed legislation.