Artist News Legal

Sigur Rós members acquitted in tax evasion case

By | Published on Wednesday 26 May 2021

Sigur Rós

After a two year legal battle, all members of Sigur Rós have been acquitted in the tax evasion case against them in Iceland.

The band were charged with tax evasion in their home country in 2019 over incorrect tax returns that were filed between 2011 and 2014, and which collectively resulted in 151 million Icelandic Krona (£877,000) of taxes going unpaid. Vocalist Jón Þór Birgisson was also charged with a further 190 million kroner (£1.1 million) in tax evasion.

The band blamed a former accountant for the incorrect tax filings. Throughout the case they stressed that they never deliberately intended to evade any tax obligations, while also pointing out that they fully complied with the Icelandic tax directorate’s investigation and paid all the monies owed.

Initially the charges were dismissed in court because of the previous deal with the Directorate Of Tax Investigations, which had also cleared the band of any tax evasion. To prosecute the band a second time over those charges, it was ruled, would contravene a European human rights law that says that people should not be tried for the same crime twice – what is sometimes known as the double jeopardy principle. However, a higher court in Reykjavik then overturned that dismissal.

Last year, the band called for their case and “over 100” others to be halted and for the Icelandic government to review the country’s tax laws that allow businesses to be charged twice over the same unpaid taxes.

“We have become victims of an unjust and draconian prosecution by the Icelandic government who are unfairly seeking to portray us as deliberate tax evaders, something we have always and continue to strongly deny”, they said at the time. “We have been charged and tried twice for the same offence, our assets have been frozen for years now, we are facing potential financial ruin and as such we are calling on the Icelandic government to revoke these outdated double jeopardy tax laws, which have affected numerous Icelandic businesses”.

New laws were passed last month which now prohibit the double punishment of tax offences. According to RÚV, in light of this, it was ruled yesterday by the Reykjavík District Court that the ongoing case against the band should be dismissed. Their legal costs, totally almost 56 million kroner (£325,000), will be paid by the state.

On his additional charges, Birgisson was also acquitted. The court said that he was not entirely absolved of responsibility for tax evasion, but it was unable to prove that he had acted with gross negligence.