Greenland quota cheat news “completely wrong”

15.11.2019 - 15:17
Mynd með færslu
Frystitogarinn Blængur NK Mynd: Síldarvinnslan/Bergþór Gunnla
Síldarvinnslan rejects claims that its CEO Gunnþór Ingvarsson sought the help of Samherji to try and cheat the Greenlandic authorities into giving up valuable fishing quotas. “This news is totally wrong and it is actually remarkable how a journalist could read this into the emails that are referred to,” the company says in response to this morning’s news in Fréttablaðið. The news was widely repeated elsewhere, including on RÚV and RÚV English.

Fréttablaðið reported this morning that the CEO of Síldarvinnslan had asked executives at Samherji who are prominent in the Samherji Files leak how best to cheat the Greenlanders in order to secure goodwill and fishing quotas. Gunnþór was said to have made the request on behalf of his company’s partner in Greenland, Henrik Leth. 

The statement from the company says that Síldarvinnslan has had a good relationship with Greenland since 2003, in connection to the country’s biggest privately-owned seafood company, Polar Seafood, which it took a controlling stake in in 2012. The chairman of the board at Polar is Henrik Leth.  

“In 2014, Henrik Leth made contact with Gunnþór Ingvason and informed him that there was discussion in Greenland that some people wanted to erect a fishmeal and pelagic fish factory in Ammasalik on the eastern coast of Greenland. Henrik found this suggestion highly unrealistic and suspected it was being put forth with the goal of getting a quota from the Greenlandic authorities,” the statement says. “In order to get more information on the technical side and the cost of a construction project like that, he contacted Gunnþór Ingvason. Gunnþór knew that Samherji had recently had plans made for a similar building in Marocco and that it would be simplest to look at those. He sent the Samherji men an email in which he requested this information, even though it related to a project in Africa. After that the case was closed on his part.” 

The statement also quotes Henrik Leth saying that he sought Gunnþór’s advice because of the experience and knowledge of Síldarvinnslan in building and running fish factories. “I would never have imagined it would be possible to create such negative news out of his helpfulness towards me. This is a sad example of unprofessional media working practices,” he said. 

Síldarvinnslan claims the wording of Gunnþór’s 2014 emails has been deliberately misinterpreted: “Greetings, friends. The matter at hand is that our friend in Greenland, Henrik Leth, has asked me to jot down for him what it would take in investment, fishing, processing, and coastal infrastructure if people wanted to set up a fishmeal and pelagic fish factory in Ammasalik on the eastern coast of Greenland,” he wrote at the time. “He is not thinking of setting anything up, rather there are some locals in Greenland with some idea of trying to get quotas and goodwill from the authorities by appearing to be setting something up in eastern Greenland,” Fréttablaðið quoted. “Don’t you have some prepared points, even though they relate to Africa?” 

In conclusion, the original news this morning claimed that Gunnþór and Hinrik Leth were asking Samherji advice on how to cheat the Greenlandic authorities into giving them valuable quotas. Síldarvinnslan claims this afternoon, however, that Gunnþór and Hinrik suspected other (Greenlandic) people were trying to secure quotas by pretending to want to build an expensive new factory, and that they contacted Samherji simply to try and get figures to prove this was unrealistic and dishonest.

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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