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Ex-Executives At Iceland Bank Jailed For Role In Financial Crisis

In this Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 photo, a Syrian prisoner holds the bars of a makeshift prison run by rebels in a former element
In this Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 photo, a Syrian prisoner holds the bars of a makeshift prison run by rebels in a former elementary school in Al-Bab on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. Many improvised detention centers have sprung up as rebels wrest cities from army control, but these facilities fall under no national or regional authority, causing concern among rights groups. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

REYKJAVIK, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Two former executives at an Icelandic bank which collapsed in the 2008 financial meltdown were sentenced to jail on Friday for fraud which led to a 53 million euro loss, in the first major trial of Icelandic bankers linked to the crisis.

All three of the small North Atlantic island's top banks collapsed in quick succession in October 2008 due to big debts incurred during a rapid overseas expansion.

Glitnir was the first to fall after the collapse of Lehman Brothers caused international credit markets to freeze up.

A Reykjavik court sentenced Glitnir's former chief executive, Larus Welding, and former head of corporate finance, Gudmundur Hjaltason, each to nine months in jail, of which six months were suspended for two years. They had denied the charges.

Prosecutors said the two approved a loan to a company which owned shares in Glitnir so that the company could in turn repay a debt to Morgan Stanley.

The decision, taken outside the regular decision-making process, meant Glitnir was too exposed to the company and cost the bank at least 53.7 million euros ($71 million), the prosecution said.

The sentence was less than the jail terms of at least five years demanded by Iceland's special prosecutor, who is looking into alleged wrongdoing connected to the crisis.

"We have a conviction, which is of course the main thing," prosecutor Holmsteinn Sigurdsson told reporters outside the courtroom when asked whether he was disappointed with the length of the sentence.

The special prosecutor is also looking into alleged wrongdoing linked to the collapse of the other two former top banks, Landsbanki and Kaupthing. ($1 = 0.7563 euros) (Reporting by Omar Valdimarsson; Writing by Patrick Lannin in Stockholm; Editing by Pravin Char)

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