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UPDATE 1-Italian court sentences Popolare Vicenza managers to jail over bank's collapse

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VICENZA, Italy, March 19 (Reuters) - An Italian judge on Friday sentenced four executives of former cooperative bank Popolare di Vicenza to jail for market manipulation and obstruction of regulators following the 2017 collapse of the Veneto-based lender.

Reading out the sentences at the end of a trial lasting some two years, judge Debora De Stefani said the court had sentenced former President Gianni Zonin to six-and-a-half years in prison.

Former executive Emanuele Giustini was given a jail term of six years and three months, while former managers Paolo Marin and Andrea Piazzetta were both given six-year prison terms.

Lawyers of the four convicted managers could not be reached for comment.

Italy liquidated Popolare di Vicenza and regional peer Veneto Bank in June 2017, selling their good assets for 1 euro to Intesa Sanpaolo, while state-owned loan manager AMCO took on 18 billion euros ($21.42 billion) in troubled debts from the two regional banks.

Popolare di Vincenza’s bankruptcy wiped out 6.5 billion euros in savings in Italy’s industrial north-east, where many of the lender’s 120,000 small shareholders were local business owners.

Following shareholder complaints, prosecutors in Vicenza since 2015 have been looking into allegations the bank’s executives fraudulently inflated the prices of shares, misleading investors about the financial solidity of the group.

The bank’s former board member Giuseppe Zigliotto and former manager Massimiliano Pellegrini were both acquitted on the grounds there was no case to answer.

The court also ruled assets worth 963 million euros be seized from the four convicted managers and the bank pay 364 million euros with the confiscation of a further 74 million euros.

$1 = 0.8402 euros Reporting by Riccardo Bastianello; Writing by Valentina Za; Editing by Stephen Jewkes, Mark Potter and Susan Fenton

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