Ouda previously testified that Jafar Lazim Eshkaya al-Timimi, a captain in the presidential guard, and lieutenant Amin Karim, his nephew who also previously served in the unit, had masterminded and carried out the robbery.

'On the run'

Al-Timimi and his nephew were among four men being tried in absentia for the robbery but who were not sentenced at Wednesday's hearing.

The judge said: "There will be another court convened for those who ran away ... if they are not arrested, there will be a further court hearing in absentia."

Armed men broke into the state-run Rafidain Bank on July 28, killing three guards who were on duty and five others on the premises, according to investigators.

About 5.6 billion Iraqi dinars ($4.8m) was stolen, the bank's chief testified during the trial.

'Politically motivated'

Most of the money was later recovered in the office of a newspaper owned by Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the Iraqi vice president and a senior member of Iraq's largest Shia party, investigators said.

Abdul-Mahdi has denied any involvement saying one of those charged in the robbery worked as part of his security team.

He has said any suggestions of wrongdoing on his part were a politically motivated attempt to sabotage his bid to be re-elected in next January's polls.

A fifth defendant, who worked at the newspaper, was acquitted.