Iceland charges 15 in cases linked to bank collapse

REYKJAVIK, March 22 Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:24pm EDT

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REYKJAVIK, March 22 (Reuters) - Iceland's prosecutor said on Friday that 15 people, including the former chiefs of two banks, have been indicted for alleged share-price manipulation in the run up to the collapse of the banking system in 2008.

The charges brought against the bank executives are among the biggest cases brought by a special prosecutor appointed to investigate the circumstances that led to the banks' collapse under a mountain debt in the 2008 global credit crunch.

Prosecutor Olafur Hauksson told Reuters that he issued indictments against the former chief executives of Landsbanki and four other former bank employees.

The 31 pages of charges in the Landsbanki case are for market manipulation, involving the bank allegedly buying up more than 56 billion krona ($453.83 million) of its own shares in order to support the share price.

Hauksson told Reuters he had issued charges against nine people from Kaupthing Bank, including the former chief executive and the former chairman, in a separate case.

The allegation also involves buying by Kaupthing of its own shares in what Hauksson called a systematic and organised way to maintain the value of the shares in the bank.

The former chief executive of Landsbanki has publicly denied any wrongdoing in dealings with the bank's shares. No other executives have made comments or were available for comment.

Icelandic authorities have been slowly sifting through cases involved in the 2008 bank collapse.

In February, a former retail baron was found guilty of tax evasion and in December last year two former executives of Glitnir Bank were jailed for fraud. ($1 = 123.3950 Iceland kronas) (Reporting by Robert Robertson, writing by Patrick Lannin in Stockholm; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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