The longest criminal trial in the history of the Irish state has collapsed after a judge ordered the acquittal of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick.
Mr FitzPatrick was accused of misleading the bank’s auditors about millions of euros in loans made to him.
The 68-year-old had pleaded not guilty to 27 charges from 2002 and 2007.
On day 126 of the trial, the judge said he would direct the jury to acquit the defendant on Wednesday.
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He said that the investigation into the accused was not sufficiently unbiased, impartial and balanced.
Speaking outside court, Mr FitzPatrick told reporters it had been a “very long, tiring and difficult time for my family and myself, but thankfully, today, the trial is over”.
Mr FitzPatrick stepped down as chairman of Anglo Irish Bank in December 2008. A month later, the bank was nationalised after it was brought to the brink of collapse.
The move cost Irish taxpayers about 30bn euros (£23.4bn).
He was declared bankrupt in 2010.
Who is Sean FitzPatrick?
Sean FitzPatrick was the public face of Anglo. His star rose with the bank.
He became general manager in 1980 and was later appointed chief executive of the parent company and transformed it into Anglo.
In 2005, he became the chairman, though he maintained a hands-on role. It was still very much ‘Seanie’s bank’.
He became an admired and influential figure, at one stage acting as an unofficial advisor to Prime Minister Brian Cowen.
But in 2008, he was forced to resign amid allegations about the true size of his personal borrowings from the bank.
Prosecutors had alleged that Mr FitzPatrick had misled Anglo Irish Bank’s auditors, Ernst and Young, about details of director’s loans he received from Anglo Irish Bank between November 2002 and February 2008.
The judge’s ruling came after lengthy submissions by the defence – who argued that flaws in the investigation should prevent the case from going before the jury – and prosecutors who said that the trial should continue.
However, the judge said the ruling to acquit was in the interests of Mr FitzPatrick’s right to a fair trial.
He said that the investigation, carried out by the Office of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), failed to seek out evidence of innocence as well as evidence of the accused’s guilt.
The judge added that the most fundamental error in the ODCE investigation was in how it received statements from witnesses.
The judge said this involved coaching witnesses, contamination of their statements from third parties, such as solicitors for the auditors, and cross-contamination of their statements between other witnesses.
The judge also said he was concerned that potential documentary evidence destroyed by the ODCE’s lead investigator could have helped the defence and damaged the prosecution.
The material was destroyed during Mr FitzPatrick’s first trial, which collapsed in 2015.
An investigation into Mr FitzPatrick was launched by the ODCE after the full amount of his personal loans emerged in December 2008.
Between 2005 and 2007, loans from the bank linked to the chairman quadrupled to around 122m euros (£106m).