uti.is 25 Apr 13: Iceland: prosecuting alleged major financial fraud ...

... means wrestling with tough defence lawyers

In two recent cases brought by the Office of the Special Prosecutor the focus has been on the defence team more than those indicted. The resignation of two defence lawyers from the al Thani case postpones the case until earliest February next year. In a case of alleged market manipulation at Kaupthing, the prosecutor asked that one of these two lawyers should be dismissed in order to prevent a repetition of the al Thani case. In a similar case against Landsbanki managers, the prosecutor asked for dismissal on grounds of conflicts of interest.

Yesterday, as one of the biggest cases, on alleged market manipulation and breach of fiduciary duty, brought so far by the Office of the Special Prosecutor came up in Reykjavík District Court for the first time, prosecutor Björn Þorvaldsson made a startling request: he demanded that Gestur Jónsson, defence lawyer for Sigurður Einarsson ex-chairman of Kaupthing, should be dismissed and Einarsson find a new lawyer.

Also Justice Arngrímur Ísberg seemed to be taken by surprise. Ísberg is famous in Iceland for what many see as a lenient grip on the infamous Baugur case where, incidentally, Gestur Jónsson acted as defence lawyer for Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson. Ísberg was unsure if prosecutor Þorvaldsson could make this request but Þorvaldsson pointed him to a recent amendment to older law. After a deliberation for fifteen minutes Ísberg returned and refused the dismissal. The prosecutor has appealed Ísberg’s decision to the Supreme Court.

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These latest events show that as elsewhere in big white-collar fraud cases, Icelandic defence lawyers know a trick or two to delay and thwart the path for the prosecutor when it comes to defending former high-flyers. The latest move by the prosecutor indicates that the OSP is prepared to play it tough. Or, as we say in Icelandic, “to converse with two rams’ horn” – not a sweet conversation.

read Sigrun's blog in full here

 

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