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Car Magnate’s Missing Millions Found?

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Car Magnate’s Missing Millions Found?

Money - Icelandic Króna

Photo: Páll Kjartansson

Three family members of former Reykjavík city councilor Júlíus Vífill Ingvarsson say that the day after the Panama Papers leak broke in the press, he confessed to the family that his parents’ funds were being stored in his own offshore company.

Júlíus’s siblings and his mother, who died last autumn, had, for years, been searching in vain for money his father had supposedly been saving in offshore accounts. The extraordinary allegations were covered in RÚV’s Kastljós news magazine program last night. Júlíus has not answered questions directly, but is adamant that he has not ever appropriated anybody else’s money.

The car dealership Ingvar Helgason hf. was one of the biggest companies in Iceland when its founder died in 1999. It was worth billions of krónur and had more than a one-quarter share in the car market. Five years later, it was sold for ISK 25 million. At this time, his widow, Sigríður, started searching for his savings, as she knew he had always saved his dealership commission from the car manufacturers in overseas accounts. Her search revealed nothing and the money was still missing when she died in autumn 2015.

Kastljós interviewed Ingvar and Sigríður’s daughter, their grandchild and the lawyer of their son, as well as covering related findings from the Panama Papers.

When the initial leak revealed that one of the siblings had set up an offshore company, in addition to their own pension fund, suspicion grew in the family about the missing money. After the television program in early April, Júlíus Vífill is reported to have called his siblings and clarified that the company in question contains their father’s assets. He asserted, however, that their father had given him and two brothers legal authority over the funds, adding that his intention had always been to transfer the funds into his parents’ estate but had never found the right time to do so.

Júlíus neither confirms or denies the claims, but says he has never misappropriated the assets of others. Júlíus Vífill was a city councilor for 14 years but resigned this April following the Panama Papers leaks.

Among the things the siblings are waiting for answers on is the mysterious purchase of 20 percent in Ingvar Helgason hf. and Bílaheimar hf. by a foreign investor in 2001. The investment helped smooth the family companies’ fortunes with the banks at a difficult time. It has never been revealed who the investor was that was willing to invest 2.2 million euros, around ISK 300 million, in a company suffering major difficulties at the time.

The investment went through a Luxembourg company called Lindos Alliance and no representative of the company chose to take a seat on the board at Ingvar Helgason.

According to an investigation carried out for the estate of Ingvar and Sigríður, the British investigators K2 have concluded that there is no company called Lindos Alliance in Luxembourg, and there never has been.

This was a mystery until the Panama Papers leak, which show that Lindos Alliance was actually founded in Tortola, just a few weeks before it invested in the Icelandic companies in 2001. It was founded by KV Associates in Luxembourg and by Mossack Fonseca. KV Associates was, however, likely never the owner of Lindos Alliance, as it is a company specializing in services to wealthy clients, including the setting up and management of offshore companies.

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