Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum, convicted of tax evasion in several courts and facing a year in prison, has received a royal pardon from King Harald V. No reason for the unusual pardon was given, after the government had relented and forwarded Nerdrum’s pardon application to the palace.
“Odd Nerdrum was pardoned by royal resolution on September 22,” confirmed Norway’s justice ministry to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Monday. The 73-year-old artist, still facing a prison term that had been reduced to 20 months (eight of them suspended) after a variety of appeals, had applied to the ministry for a pardon last year. It was initially denied in the spring of 2016 but ended up being forwarded to the monarch after all.
“We are extremely glad over the king’s decision,” Nerdrum’s high-profile defense attorney John Christian Elden told DN. “The ministry rejected the application in April 2016 and our complaint was heard by the king in September of this year.” Elden added that the royal pardon brings Nerdrum’s tax troubles to an end.
“He can continue painting as the free soul he is,” Elden wrote in a text message to DN.
Asked why Nerdrum had been pardoned, not least because Nerdrum’s tax evasion was ruled as being “severe,” Elden replied: “We applied. The king doesn’t give any reason.” Nerdrum’s final sentence included convictions on three counts of aggravated tax evasion.
DN reported Monday on how the pardon process in Norway is secret and bound by confidentiality laws. Convicts can apply for pardons through the police district where the conviction occurred. Such applications are then forwarded by prosecutors with their evaluations to the Justice Ministry, where they are either rejected or approved. If approved, they are forwarded to the monarch who makes a formal decision at a weekly Council of State with the government. The process suggests that the ministry, after initially rejecting Nerdrum’s pardon request, changed its mind with political consent from the government, in order for it to have been presented to the king.
Nerdrum’s attorneys had always argued that the artist was too sensitive to be confined and that a jail term would all but ruin his health and artistic expression. Their arguments and appeals arose after successive courts found Nerdrum guilty of failing to report sales proceeds and stashing money abroad. The artist, who was forced to appear in court and found that disturbing as well, argued that business and financial matters were not his strength. He sold most of his production through agents and galleries abroad as well.
His tax troubles began back in 2002, after DN revealed he’d sold paintings for more more than NOK 100 million. Norwegian tax authorities launched an investigation and ended up filing charges against the artist, who was highly popular at the time. He was convicted by an appeals court in June 2012 and sentenced to two years and 10 months prison for having sold art for nearly NOK 14 million without declaring the income on his Norwegian tax returns.
Nerdrum appealed to the Supreme Court and won a reprieve on the grounds his sentence was poorly based. The high court sent the case back to the appeals court, which in yet another round of legal action found that Nerdrum had paid tax on some of the sales but far from all. His sentence was reduced to one year and eight months in prison and that’s what he’ll now avoid serving, after the Supreme Court at that point decided not to hear his appeal of it as well.
Nerdrum has had to deal with several other legal challenges as well, both from former partners and his art institute. That case was eventually settled.
Nerdrum’s wife and spokesperson, Turid Spildo, issued a statement Monday morning that the family also was “extremely glad” over “this final decision.” The family, she stated, wanted to thank “the king in the Council of State,” attorney Elden and his office, and a journalist at newspaper Dagbladet, with no further explanation. Spildo then stated that Nerdrum’s family “requested peace and quiet in this joyful moment.”