So, my little post yesterday evidently hit a nerve with a few people.
After Eyjan and Pressan picked up on it, I was quite literally bombarded with phone calls and emails from one Ragnhildur Sverrisdóttir, Björgólfur Thor’s PR representative, who was most zealous in her denial of all the “old innuendos” made in the post.
First, she sent an email, which I did not see until a couple of hours later when I returned from the gym. She had also left two comments to the post, which were waiting in the moderation queue. Incidentally, she’d also called my cellphone AND my home phone during that time. In the email she asked that I give her name of the filmmaker I mentioned in my post, then claimed that no filmmaker had contacted BTB about an interview in the past year.
So on returning home I approved the comments and glanced through the emails before turning my attention to other — more pressing — concerns. While I was thus engaged, my cellphone rang, which I did not take since I was busy. It was Ragnhildur, who left a message on my voice mail requesting that I moderate the comments that she had written and reiterating what she had written in the email, that the filmmaker had been lying to me.
I responded to Ragnhildur’s email as soon as I could and politely told her that, unfortunately, I could not give her the name of my source, since I had promised not to. I also offered to publish a statement from her on my blog if she wanted. Finally, I asked whether I was to interpret this to mean that BTB is, in fact, willing to speak to the media or any documentary filmmakers about the Russian years.
Ragnhildur then wrote back and said she wouldn’t need the name of the filmmaker after all, since there was no filmmaker that had contacted BTB about an interview. [Um …]
She also wrote that BTB had repeatedly responded to Russian mafia allegations in media interviews, in Iceland and elsewhere.
And she was kind enough to give me some advice:
If I were you, I would worry less about that [i.e. whether BTB is willing to speak about the Russian years] and more about the fact that, for whatever reason, the filmmaker lied to you.
I suspect the “BTB has already responded to the allegations” was meant to be the answer to my question as to whether BTB is willing to speak about his Russian affairs with the media, or not.
Yet it didn’t quite satisfy. I personally don’t recall seeing or reading any interviews with BTB where he answers questions about the Russian years. I’m not saying they don’t exist, just that I don’t recall seeing them. If anyone has links such interviews, please pass them along. I’d be happy to publish them, so IWR readers can decide for themselves whether BTB’s responses are adequate. Because, you see, I don’t recall any evidence having surfaced to refute the claims of shady business dealings, while I DO recall plenty of evidence surfacing in the last two years of BTB’s involvement with certain factions often described as the Icelandic mafia. Given that, isn’t it natural to wonder about these things?
[I also have a very vivid memory of BTB in the film Maybe I Should Have, where the interviewer asks him about allegations of criminal activity, at which BTB — who up to that point had been careful to present only the most amiable persona — tore off his microphone and stormed out of the room. For whatever that’s worth.]
But I digress. Back to Ragnhildur. I hadn’t planned to respond to that last email [extreme patronizing tends to do that to me] — however, about half an hour later another email appeared in my inbox. And if I thought the first one had been condescending … *low whistle*
It began like this:
I wish you to publish this text on your website
Then came the statement she wished me to publish, and believe it or not, she can’t even get my name right.
Höfundur síðunnar, Alda Sigmarsdóttir, hefur eftir kvikmyndagerðarmanni að hann ætli að gera heimildarmynd um hrunið, en Björgólfur Thor sett það skilyrði, að ekki yrði fjallað um ár hans í Rússlandi. Þessi yfirlýsing huldumannsins, sem á að vera að vinna heimildarmyndina, verður Öldu tilefni til að rifja upp gamlar dylgjur.
Enginn kvikmyndagerðarmaður hefur sett sig í samband við Björgólf Thor eða starfsfólks hans sl. ár. Kvikmyndagerðarmaðurinn hefur af einhverjum ástæðum spunnið upp sögu, sem enginn fótur er fyrir.
Talsmaður Björgólfs Thors
The author of the web page, Alda Sigmarsdóttir [snicker], quotes a filmmaker who says he is planning to make a film about the economic collapse and that Björgólfur Thor had set a condition that it must not deal with his years in Russia. The statement by this secret filmmaker, who is allegedly working on the documentary, gives Alda cause to begin re-hashing old innuendos.
No filmmaker has been in touch with Björgólfur Thor or any of his collaborators over the past year. For some reason the filmmaker has fabricated a story that has no basis in fact.
Spokesman for Björgólfur Thor
First of all, I have no reason to suspect that the filmmaker in question was not telling me the truth.
Second, I agree with Ragnhildur that the name of the filmmaker is unimportant. To some extent it is also unimportant whether or not Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson talks to the media about the Russian years or not. The important thing is that the Bravo brewery, owned by BTB and his business partners, which was situated in St. Petersburg, seat of the Russian mafia, flourished, while their main competitors were either assassinated or had their business burned down.
Those are facts, and it is perfectly legitimate to ask the sorts of questions that The Guardian and others have asked. How is it that one business flourishes so spectacularly in a city that is steeped in crime and corruption, while others meet a brutal and untimely demise?
Also, BTB’s brewing company, according to Wikipedia, “was founded by six companies registered in Limassol, Cyprus. Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson was president of all of them.” Cyprus is a notorious offshore tax haven, and tax havens usually play host to shady money. Those are not innuendos — just facts. BTB argues that all his business dealings were upfront, and according to the Guardian article, they were “three self-confessed naives.” But do naives found companies in shady tax havens, rather than legitimately in the city where the company is based? – You know, just asking.
Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson and his PR rep can argue until they are blue in the face that there were no shady business dealings in Russia. But I suspect that, with those facts on the table, they will never be able to dispel what they like to call “innuendos”. People will always be asking legitimate questions — because it is natural to ask them.
Whereas is not natural to try to silence those who do.