European court dismisses disgraced banker suit

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The European Court of Human Rights dismissed a suit by disgraced banker, Helmut Elsner, that argued he had been incarcerated illegally while awaiting trial.

Condemned in 2010 in Austria's worst ever financial scandal, the former president of Bank fer Arbeit und Wirtschaft AG (Bawag) was arrested in France -- where he had retired -- in September 2006.

In February 2007, Elsner was extradited to Austria and placed in temporary detention awaiting a trial that ended in July 2008.

Elsner was found guilty of embezzlement, breach of trust and falsifying results -- illegal activity that the court said precipitated 1.72 billion euros (2.42 billion dollars) in losses.

Originally comdemned to nine and a half years in prison, Elsner's sentence was later reduced to seven years and the amount embezzled to one billion euros.

In their decision, which can be appealed, the European court said the severity of the charges and risk of flight justifed Elsner's detention.

The Elsner scandal erupted in 2006 when the bank, historically linked to Austria's main labour union OGB, was found to be buried under 2.4 billion euros in debt.

Bawag was bought in December 2006 by US private equity fund Cerberus.

© 2011 AFP

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