Three jailed bankers from Iceland were freed on Thursday due to a change in law brought about by corrupt politicians in the country.
Former Kaupthing Chairperson of the Board Sigurður Einarsson, former Kaupthing Luxembourg CEO Magnús Guðmundsson and former 10% owner of Kaupthing Ólafur Ólafsson have been released from Kvíabryggja prison, despite opposition from members of the public.
They will instead move to a halfway house, Vernd, where they will have to return every night but will otherwise be free. A member of parliament has criticised the legislation is being “handcrafted” for these bankers.
Their early release is due to a change to the law on maximum penalties. While the law previously granted prisoners 2.5 days of “electronic surveillance” for every month served, the change increased that time to 5 days. According to Stundin’s sources, it was Independence Party MP Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir who fought for the changes to be made, which were passed on March 16.
“I don’t think this is a good time for this legislative change, in light of the situation surrounding these particular prisoners,” Left-Green MP Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir told reporters. “This seems to have been handcrafted for them. I generally support the increased use of electronic surveillance [as opposed to prison]. But we need to have a discussion about what crimes this new law would apply to.”
Iceland made international headlines for jailing any bankers at all, let alone these particular three. As reported, the Supreme Court of Iceland had found them guilty of market manipulation and fraud, in part by lending money from Kaupthing to investor Mohammad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani for the express purpose of buying stock in the bank. They artificially inflated the value of the bank, deliberately deceiving investors and depositors alike, and contributed significantly to the late 2008 collapse of the Icelandic banking system.
UPDATE: Stundin now reports that the bankers all went out to buy ice cream (with chocolate sauce) last week – while they were supposed to still be serving their sentences. Director of the Icelandic Prison Service Páll Winkel told reporters that “prisoners do not have permission to go shopping”, adding that he has asked for an explanation.