Ex Iceland PM Haarde First World Leader in Court Over 2008 Financial Crisis
By Oliver Tree | March 6, 2012 3:04 AM EST
Iceland's former Prime Minister went on trial on Monday, on charges of leading his country to financial ruin -- the first world leader to be formally charged over issues related to the 2008 global financial crisis.
Geir Haarde presided over Iceland's economic meltdown, which saw the collapse of the country's three main banks, its currency plunge and inflation soar, costing the country billions of dollars.
Haarde will be tried in a specially convened court, or Landsdomur, which allows politicians and not lawyers to press charges.
Legal experts said the former PM, who was forced from office in 2009, has a good chance of beating the charges because of his strong legal team, a groundswell of popular sympathy for the politician and the unique court's "flawed structure," The Associated Press reported.
The collapse of the country's largest bank Landsbanki in 2008 saw thousands of UK and Dutch customers of the bank's Icesave accounts lose their life savings, causing a huge diplomatic row between the three nations.
Prosecutors said the former leader failed to implement recommendations drawn up by a government committee in 2006 to strengthen the country's economy.
According to an Icelandic parliamentary report, Haarde and his government are to blame as they "lacked both the power and the courage to set reasonable limits to the financial system."
Haarde has rejected the charges, calling them "preposterous." He has said his government had no idea how much debt the country's banks had amassed. He has previously claimed his "conscience was clear" over the collapse in 2008 of Landsbanki, Kaupthing and Giltnir, saying the banks themselves were to blame.
According to AP, the court consists of 15 members including five supreme court justices, a district court president, a constitutional law professor and eight people chosen by parliament.
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