Stundin breaks its silence

26.10.2018 - 09:43
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Stígur Helgason - RÚV
The Stundin newspaper has today broken a legal injunction that prevented it from publishing details of documents from Glitnir Bank. Today’s front page carries a picture of Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Bjarni Benediktsson under the headline “Banned news released”. The paper goes on to state that Bjarni was more involved in financial affairs through the old bank than previously thought.

Glitnir HoldCo, the company in charge of the remaining assets of Glitnir Bank, which collapsed in the crisis ten years ago, succeeded in getting a gagging order against Stundin and Reykjavik Media in mid-October 2017, two weeks before the general election in Iceland. The newspaper was going to expose the finances of Bjarni Benediktsson, who was prime minister at the time, and his connections to Glitnir before the banking crash. That injunction has been in place for over a year: 375 days. 

The Landsréttur appeals court removed the gagging order on 5th October this year—arriving at the same decision as the Reykjavík District Court: that Stundin’s coverage of the leaked documents last autumn would, for the most part, have been in the public interest. 

Glitnir HoldCo spokespeople did not answer whether or not they would appeal both decisions to the Supreme Court, and so the injunction remained in effect. They have four weeks from the Landsréttur decision to declare a Supreme Court appeal. Today, three weeks have passed since the decision.  

Stundin has taken the decision to go public now, citing the law on injunctions and asset freezing that states that an injunction falls out of effect three weeks after it is rejected by a court. The law also states that an injunction remains in effect when a rejection decision is appealed to a higher court and that if that higher court agrees with the district court’s rejection of the injunction, it will immediately stop. The law does not make reference to the Landsréttur appeals court, but that court does count as a higher court, in Stundin’s opinion, which would make it unnecessary to wait for a decision on a Supreme Court appeal. 

“The editors of Stundin have decided to no longer allow the bankrupt banks to decide what may and may not be covered – both financially, legally, and morally bankrupt banking institutions, where what cannot be called anything but organised crime, market abuse, and fraud took place, in the name of deceiving the public. It is not acceptable in any way to use gagging orders to prevent discussion of deceipt and misuse of power, even though the Reykjavík District Commissioners investigates it, without paying heed to freedom of speech and the public’s right to information,” writes Jón Trausti Reynisson. 

Stundin today claims that the documents in its possession clearly link Bjarni to behind the scenes dealings in the investments of his father, Benedikt Sveinsson’s business empire, and that of his uncle, Einar Sveinsson, before the 2008 crash. They and others in the so-called Engey clan were major shareholders in Glitnir, and Stundin claims the bank repeatedly broke the law at their request. 

The paper also says that the name of Benedikt Jóhannesson, who until last autumn was finance minister and leader of Viðreisn, is also mentioned in the Glitnir papers, on a loans sheet on loans for investments in BNT ehf., the owner of N1. Stundin wanted to release that news before last year’s elections but was prevented from doing so by the injunction. Benedikt, who is a blood relative of Bjarni, is quoted as saying he never took the 40 million króna loan in question, but that he had invested in BNT ehf.

Alexander Elliott
Project manager