Sigur Ros Cleared on Tax Evasion Charges in Iceland

Jonsi Birgisson of Sigur Ros
Daniel Pockett/WireImage

Jonsi Birgisson of Sigur Ros performs at Margaret Court Arena on July 27, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.

The band had the charges dismissed under a "double jeopardy" rule in the courts.

Members of the experimental rock band Sigur Rós have been cleared of tax evasion charges in Iceland, according to Icelandic newspaper Fréttablaðið and confirmed by Billboard.

In March, band members Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson and Georg “Goggi” Hólm -- as well as former members Kjartan “Kjarri” Sveinsson and Orri Páll Dýrason -- were indicted by Reykjavik, Iceland’s District Prosecutor on charges of evading 151 million Icelandic krona ($1.2 million) in taxes between 2011 and 2014. The band, which was previously cleared on charges of tax evasion by Iceland’s Directorate of Tax Investigations, had the charges dismissed on account of double jeopardy rules, according to a statement released by its management.

“The band had already agreed to pay all outstanding historical taxes and fines to the revenue services, but were being separately pursued by the Icelandic District Attorney for further fines and sentencing relating to the same period,” the band’s management said in a statement shared with Billboard and first reported by Pitchfork. “The band have always strenuously denied any intention or wrongdoing related to the case.”

In the previous case, the band claimed an accountant was responsible for the incorrect tax filings, which resulted in 800 million Icelandic krona ($8 million) worth of their assets being frozen. The debt was subsequently paid back by band members.

"This is great news. We know it´s not over yet, but the ruling is very reassuring,” stated the band on the day of the verdict.  

Read the full statement from the band's management here:

The Reykjavík District Court has dismissed criminal proceedings against the members of Sigur Rós for tax avoidance on “double jeopardy” rules.  The band had already agreed to pay all outstanding historical taxes and fines to the revenue services, but were being separately pursued by the Icelandic District Attorney for further fines and sentencing relating to the same period. The band have always strenuously denied any intention or wrongdoing related to the case.

The defence’s successful move on Oct 4th to have the charges dismissed hinged upon recent European Court of Human Rights rulings on “ne bis in idem” (literally “not the same thing twice”) grounds, whereby a defendant cannot be punished more than once for the same offence.  The judgement is seen as potentially precedent-setting for the Icelandic courts, with the most widely-read newspaper Fréttablaðið calling for a change in the law to comply with the ECHR Convention on Human Rights.  The band’s defence counsel, Bjarnfreður Ólafsson has described the existing legislation as ‘outdated, costly and unjust”.

Although the prosecution have appealed to take the matter before the Icelandic High Court later this year, the District Court’s decision has been heartily welcomed by the band.  

UPDATE: This story was updated Oct. 16, 2019, 8:15 p.m. to include the full statement from the band's management. 

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