Ex-banker Sean Fitzpatrick freed as judge directs not guilty verdict

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IRELAND-BANKING/COURT

A judge has told former banker and bankrupt Sean Fitzpatrick he is a free man after directing a jury to find him not guilty of fraud.

The ex-chairman of the defunct Anglo Irish Bank had been on trial for the last 126 days accused of "artificially reducing" personal loans for a few weeks around the end of the financial year so their full value was not shown in accounts.

After the longest criminal trial in Irish history, the former bank boss, who always denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty, returned to the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin for one last time on Wednesday morning to hear the formal acquittal.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), set up in 2001 to crack down on white collar crime, has said it fully accepts a judge's criticism of its investigation into the former Anglo chief's loans.

The watchdog accepted witnesses were coached when giving statements during the investigation and that their evidence was contaminated.

Judge John Aylmer told the jury that he would not repeat a lengthy ruling he gave in their absence on Tuesday when he told Mr Fitzpatrick he would be acquitted.

"The prosecution having confirmed that there is nothing else against you, you are free to go," the judge told the former bank boss.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who was supported in court by his daughter Sarah, said: "Thank you."

The ex-banker, who built Anglo over 30 years to become one of the biggest lending institutions in Ireland, declined to comment on the case as he left the courts but said he celebrated the verdict on Tuesday night.

"I've said everything I had to say yesterday, thank you very much," he said.

"I don't want to be rude but I'm not going to speak or make any comment."