Revelations surrounding the Scandinavian Star fire lead to an investigation in Denmark – NRK Dokumentar
The unsolved murder fire on the ferry “Scandinavian Star” in 1990 will be investigated again. The politicians in the Danish Parliament have decided that.
On April 7, 1990, several fires broke out on board the Danish boat. The police concluded that the fires had been started, but it is still unclear who was behind it. 136 Norwegians died.
Last Friday, a new working group started on its mission. Experts will investigate who were the real shipowners and owners. The theories that the fire was due to insurance fraud must also be looked at more closely.
The new investigation takes place after the Danish authorities have acknowledged that the Danish police did not conduct a good enough investigation in 1990.
This startling realization comes after various ministers of justice and public prosecutors in Denmark for a number of years have claimed the opposite.
No good investigation of nests
For 30 years, there has been a discussion about what the Danish police did and did not do in the months after the fire in 1990. While the Norwegian police investigated the fire itself, the Danish police were to look at ownership and insurance matters.
Many believe they should carefully examine why both the sale price and the insurance sum doubled a week before the tragedy.
Danish Henrik Johansen stated that he was the owner. But he had not paid for the ship when it burned. And his company was not registered with the Danish authorities.
The re-registration in the ship registers had not taken place either. Nevertheless, the Danish police chose to trust that Johansen was the owner and the person responsible for the ship.
Thus, Johansen also received large tax depreciation on «Scandinavian Star». However, the insurance money went to the American company SeaEscape, which should have sold the ship.
In 1993, Johansen was sentenced to six months in prison as the person responsible for lack of safety on board.
In 2016, the Norwegian police reviewed the murder fire again. In the final disclosure, the police wrote that they had not assessed who had the shipowner’s responsibility for the ship.
They also pointed out that this was covered through the Danish trial from 1993. In other words, the Norwegian police have not investigated who was actually responsible for the ship.
In 2021, the Danish authorities admitted that the Danish police have not investigated this issue well enough either.
Thus, a key question in the tragedy remains unanswered: Who was responsible for putting the ship into operation?
A ship under renovation, with lack of safety and which had not had fire drills on board.
Johansen admitted tax exploitation
Cave Danish newspaper Politiken was able to reveal in January what Henrik Johansen said in questioning with the Norwegian police in 2016. There he acknowledged cooperation with the shipping company SeaEscape on the utilization of the Danish tax system.
He said he had invested in other ships as a passive owner. The companies SeaEscape and ISP were responsible for renting and operating the ships «Scandinavian Song» and «Sun Fiesta».
He also said that “Scandinavian Star” was a finished “package” they bought, with financing and management.
The question is whether he, by the word «management», meant the operation of the ship. That is, that someone else was responsible for the ship. Norwegian police did not follow up in the interrogation.
Jan Harsem has for many years been the leader of the support group for the bereaved. For a number of years he has questioned whether Johansen was really the responsible shipowner.
Among other things, because one of SeaEscape’s co-owners explained in the bankruptcy court in Florida in 1991 that the agreements with Johansen were pure paperwork.
Furthermore, Harsem points to the Danish-American Niels-Erik Lund. He had been the director of SeaEscape.
In 1990, Lund was a board member and responsible for the trade with Johansen. He signed contracts and insurance payments.
Lund was also the contact person in the Bahamas register for “Scandinavian Star” when it burned.
– It’s true that I was listed as a contact person on behalf of SeaEscape. Just as I was for all other Miami-based DFDS and SeaEscape vessels, even though I was not a shipowner, Lund answers NRK.
Can be a police investigation
These are some of the moments the new Danish working group must take a closer look at. It consists of lawyers, an investigative expert and a professor of maritime law.
The studies for the working group will become a study in a year and a half. If new factors emerge, it may lead to the Danish police initiating an investigation into matters that are not obsolete.
NRK has not received a response from Henrik Johansen to repeated inquiries.