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Large compensation award for unfair imprisonment

15.06.2022 - 12:02
Mynd: Birgir Þór Harðarson / RÚV
The Landsréttur appeals court last week ordered the state to pay a man 19 million krónur in compensation. The man, who is Nigerian, spent 11 months in custody over an investigation that led to a two-month prison sentence. His time in custody was therefore several times longer than the eventual sentence handed down in court.

The man was held in prison during his custody period for 269 days longer than his prison sentence. He decided to claim damages from the Icelandic state as a result—also claiming compensation for the travel ban he was subject to between the end of his custody and the time the court made its final verdict.

Much higher compensation than lower court

Reykjavík District court had previously also found in the man’s favour, ordering the state to pay the man 4.5 million krónur in compensation.

That compensation decision came because the court ruled Iceland should only compensate for the five months spent in custody in Iceland. The District Court did not conclude the Icelandic state was responsible for the six months he spent in custody in Italy while authorities there processed the extradition request from Iceland.

Landsréttur ruled, however, that the state was liable to pay compensation for the man’s time spent behind bars in both Iceland and Italy. This was because the man was remanded in custody while Italian authorities worked on a request made by Iceland.

Lightest sentence but heaviest punishment

Four people were arrested over an online crime committed in 2015, when an unknown man hacked into communications between an Icelandic fish exporter and a South Korean importer. The man got the South Korean company to transfer 54 million krónur meant to pay for Icelandic fish into a fraudulent account.

Three Icelanders and a Nigerian man living in Italy were arrested during the investigation. The Icelanders were remanded in custody for a week, but the Nigerian for nearly a year. After trial, the court sentenced the Icelanders for money laundering by intent and sentenced them to 8, 10, and 12 months in prison. The Nigerian was sentenced to just two months for the crime of money laundering by negligence.

People sentenced to prison for financial crimes usually do not serve their full sentence in prison, and can often serve at least part of it in the form of community service.

In this case, the person who was handed down by far the shortest sentence spent by far the longest time behind bars. As a result, the state has been ordered to pay him 19 million krónur.

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Alexander Elliott
Fréttastofa RÚV