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Iceland's vilified bankers have fled abroad

REYKJAVIK (AFP) - A year after Iceland's stunning economic collapse, most of the directors of its failed banks have fled abroad, tired of angry verbal attacks and the red paint daubed on their homes and cars.

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Iceland agonises over British and Dutch payback

A year ago, the small North Atlantic nation saw its oversized financial sector crumble amid the global credit crisis, as the government took over the three biggest banks and the stock market suspended all financial shares.

With the country on the brink of bankruptcy, Icelanders took to the streets to vent their fury over having lost their savings and their jobs -- while inflation soared and the currency plunged -- all because of the actions of what they saw as a few overly-aggressive and out-of-control bankers.

According to Iceland's special prosecutor investigating the collapse of the banks, 50 to 60 people from the banks' top layers of management have been taken in for questioning so far -- but no charges have been pressed to date.

Up to the crash, Iceland had experienced more than a decade of prosperity as its financial groups invested heavily abroad and those who ran the banks were seen as wizards.

Now, a year later, with the economy expected to shrink 9.0 percent this year and household consumption down by 20 percent, most of the bank directors have moved abroad to work as financial consultants for undisclosed employers.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, a frontline protester turned MP, is surprised the bankers' personal wealth has not been frozen.

"It would have been very normal to freeze their assets," she said, predicting a return of last year's weekly protests and describing the situation as a "ticking bomb."

A group called "Skapofsi", or "Rage" in English, has taken it upon itself to remind the former heroes that they are no longer welcome in Iceland, splashing red paint on their houses and cars.

In interviews AFP conducted with bankers ahead of the one-year anniversary, most requested anonymity and were hesitant to describe the effect the financial and economic collapse has had on their personal lives.

Last Updated (Thursday, 15 October 2009 09:23)


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