REYKJAVIK, April 24 (Reuters) - Two former chiefs and 13 other ex-executives and staff of two Icelandic banks pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of share price manipulation in one of the biggest trials linked to the collapse of the bank system in 2008.
Iceland took an aggressive stance against former bankers after its three banks, having grown to 10 times the economic output of $16 billion in that year, failed in quick succession.
Parliament later appointed a special prosecutor to look into allegations of any wrongdoing.
'Innocent,' said Hreidar Sigurdsson, the former chief executive of one of the collapsed banks, Kaupthing, after the prosecutor read out charges at the start of the trial in a court session lasting about an hour.
Charges have been laid against nine people from Kaupthing, accusing them of buying the bank's shares in what the special prosecutor called 'a systematic and organised way' to prop up the stock.
The prosecutor later presented charges against against six people in a case involving Landsbanki, including former CEO Sigurjon Arnason, for market manipulation.
The prosecutor alleges that the bank bought up more than 56 billion Iceland krona ($478 million) of its own shares in order to support the share price before its collapse. All the defendants in this case also pleaded not guilty.
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 = 117.1950 Iceland kronas)
(Reporting by Robert Robertson; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Patrick Lannin and Mark Heinrich) Keywords: ICELAND BANKERS/
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