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Dozens of Fishermen Charged with Tax Fraud

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Dozens of Fishermen Charged with Tax Fraud

Capelin

Photo: Páll Stefánsson

Fifty-seven Icelandic fishermen, who worked for Icelandic fisheries abroad, are suspected of having failed to pay income tax in Iceland, where they resided, Fréttatíminn reports. Their cases comprise more than half of the 108 tax fraud cases connected to the Panama Papers, which are under investigation by the Directorate of Tax Investigation in Iceland. The Directorate has filed charges in a majority of the fishermen’s cases, which are now in the hands of a district prosecutor.

The fishermen worked for Icelandic fisheries in Africa, among others, but lived in Iceland. In some cases, tax evasions are believed to amount to tens of millions of krónur.

Last year, the Directorate purchased information regarding the assets of Icelanders in tax havens for ISK 37 million (USD 327,000, EUR 304,000). That included information on 500 companies with ties to Icelanders. The so-called Panama Papers, which were leaked to the media from the Panama law firm of Mossack Fonseca last spring, included the names of about 600 Icelandic companies.

Still, most of the 108 tax fraud cases under investigation were already being investigated before the information was purchased by the Directorate and before the Panama Papers were leaked. The purchased information resulted in 34 cases being added to the investigation.

The investigation of the fishermen involves whether it was legal for them to register their legal residence abroad, and be tax-payers there, while they did in fact reside in Iceland. Some of them registered their permanent address in Mauritania, according to Fréttablaðið. It is also being investigated whether they paid taxes in the countries they called their legal residence.

According to Ólafur Hauksson, district prosecutor, a ruling issued by the European Court of Human Rights this week in the case of two Norwegian investors vs. the Norwegian state could set a precedent in these cases. It was ruled that the Norwegian state could charge the investors a premium on tax evasion and then sentence them to prison.

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