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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 03:00 GMT
Algerian bank fraudsters jailed
By Richard Hamilton
BBC North African correspondent

Lawyers and attendants outside the Algerian court in Blida
Rafik Khalifa did not attend the court in Blida, Algeria
The first prison sentences have been handed down in Algeria's biggest-ever banking scandal.

Fifteen executives from the Khalifa Bank have been sentenced to up to 15 years in jail for misappropriating money belonging to account-holders.

More than $45m (23m) went missing from Algeria's biggest private bank before it went under in 2003.

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Algerians lost their savings as a result of the collapse.

The company officials have been given sentences ranging from eight to 15 years on charges of fraud. More sentences are expected.

The Khalifa group at one point employed 20,000 people and included an airline and two television stations.

It went bankrupt following the arrest of three businessmen from the group who were trying to board a plane out of Algiers with more than $2m stuffed inside their suitcases.

The Algerian authorities are still seeking the extradition from Britain of the head of the Khalifa group, Rafik Khalifa.

He was once regarded as Algeria's golden boy who pursued a jet-set lifestyle and threw parties for the rich and famous.

He was arrested earlier this month in London on charges of money-laundering.




SEE ALSO
Algeria bank fraud trial begins
08 Jan 07 |  Business
Country profile: Algeria
12 Dec 06 |  Country profiles



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