Odd Nerdrum, considered as one of Norway’s most talented artists, was given an even longer jail sentence than the one he was appealing. Nerdrum, convicted of tax evasion, now faces two years and 10 months in prison.
Odd Nerdrum was accused of having sold paintings for 14 million overseas, between 1998 and 2002 and not declaring the earnings in his tax return and subsequently paying the due tax. In the August 2011 Oslo District Court hearing, Nedrum said the case was “nonsense”. He also explained that he is not good with numbers. His defence lawyer argued that Nerdrum had partially paid taxes in both Norway and Iceland.
The Appeals Court has subsequently upheld the original ruling and granted a lengthier jail sentence sought by the prosecution, extending the original sentence from two years by ten months. Lead prosecutor Asbjørg Lykkjen was satisfied with the verdict handed down by the court, which hadn’t been expected to rule until after the summer holidays. Nerdrum’s trial ended just a week ago.
Lykkjen claimed that Nerdrum had cheated the Norwegian tax system and that it was important he received a lengthy prison term for tax evasion. “As a preventative measure, tax evasion must be strictly punished,” Lykkjen said.
Nerdrum had argued all along that he did not underreport the proceeds of sales of his paintings abroad, had not evaded taxes and that the Norwegian state, and by his own calculations, owed him money. Nerdrum has long felt persecuted in Norway and left the country several years ago to live in Iceland. He currently lives in France.
Nerdrum has refused to be interviewed by Norwegian reporters for years but made an appearance on the popular Swedish-Norwegian talk show Skavlan, hosted by Norwegian Fredrik Skavlan. There he claimed the state had been “out to get him” since he debuted as an artist.
Odd Nerdrum likely won’t be allowed to paint in prison, because of rules preventing prisoners from pursing their business interests while incarcerated. Nerdrum also has claimed his prison sentence was a way for the state to push him towards suicide.
His defense counsel had argued for full acquittal of charges Nerdrum had failed to declare as much as NOK 14 million in sales proceeds from his paintings. Nerdrum testified that many of the paintings had been damaged because of a problem with the quality of the paint, and he had merely set aside sales proceeds in case refunds would be demanded.
Nerdrum believes the case has destroyed his reputation, “I have not sold anything in the past year. Reputation is dangerous stuff”, he said.