Captains of Icelandic industry – including fishing giant HB Grandi and whaling company Hvalur hf. – recently took Russia’s Assistant Foreign Minister and others on a sea fishing trip, and both companies have a lot at stake where relations with Russia are concerned. The timing of the trip also raises questions about a shipment of fin whale meat currently sailing through Russian waters.
Stundin reports that the fishing trip in question took place some time in mid-July. On board the boat were Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson, the director of HB Grandi; Kristján Loftsson, the managing director of Hvalur hf. and a board member of HB Grandi; Jón Ólafur Halldórsson, the chairperson of petrocompany Ólís; Erlendur G. Auðunsson, who amongst other things is a meat exporter; Vladimir Titov, the Assistant Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and Anton V. Vasiliev, the Russian ambassador to Iceland.
While all the Icelanders on board – with the possible exception of Jón Ólafur – are affected by Russia’s import ban of Icelandic products, Vilhjálmur and Kristján have a considerable amount at stake. HB Grandi exports 2 billion ISK worth of fish to Russia each year. Kristján shares interests with HB Grandi, but also of note is that this fishing trip took place two weeks before one of his ships, Winter Bay, set sail with 1,700 tonnes of endangered fin whale meat, on its way to Japan through Russian waters to considerable international protest. Russia’s cooperation is crucial to Winter Bay reaching its destination.
Reporters were unable to reach Vilhjálmur, but did get in touch with Jón Ólafur, who denied that there was any business talk on the fishing trip, saying that it was just a “pleasure trip”. Reporters did reach Kristján, however, who was evasive with reporters about what went on during the trip. Below is a partial transcript of the conversation which took place between the reporter from Stundin and Kristján Loftsson:
Kristján (when asked about the fishing trip): “I went on a fishing trip with [the assistant Foreign Minister]? Who said that?”
Reporter: “I’ve already spoken to someone else on that trip.”
K: “Well, there’s nothing else to that. Shouldn’t that be enough?”
R: “No, I want to hear from you, too.”
K: “Just let what you heard be enough if you consider that something important.”
R: “I would like to know what was discussed and what the occasion was-”
K: “That’s none of your business. If men meet someone that’s none of your business what they discussed. It’s just not your business.”
R: “I’m just asking. Of course I want to ask you-”
K: “Yes, and I’m telling you it’s none of your business. You can go ahead and print that it’s none of your business. You can’t just keep endlessly jumping down people’s throats, you reporters. You have to have some manners, you reporters. And you can print that, too.”
R: “OK, I’ll do that. But why-”
K: “Listen, I’m not going to keep this up. I’m in a meeting right now so I’ll say goodbye now.”
What the original purpose of the fishing trip was, and who organised it, is still unknown at the time of this writing.