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Irish bankers go free after fraud convictions are overturned

An appeals court has quashed the convictions of two former Anglo Irish bankers who were accused of financial crimes. Tiarnan O'Mahoney and Bernard Daly were jailed last July for three and two years, respectively.

Fifty-six-year-old O'Mahoney, who was Anglo Irish Bank's chief operations officer and 67-year-old ex-company secretary Daly were informed by a court in Dublin that crucial documentary evidence was wrongly admitted during their original trial.

"The evidence available to the prosecution was thin, was tenuous and in those circumstances the court finds itself in disagreement with the trial judge," stated its 57-page judgment, which was released on Tuesday.

Daly was immediately released from custody but O'Mahoney awaits release on bail while a decision on a possible retrial is made.

A third Anglo Irish official, Aoife Maguire, who was given an 18-month sentence, was freed last year when her original sentence was quashed on appeal.

New property development

The Irish housing market crashed by up to 50 percent

The charges related to conspiring to hide accounts connected to the brother-in-law of former Anglo Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick and of conspiring to defraud the Irish tax authorities. They remain the only Anglo Irish officials to have been imprisoned in Ireland.

Lax lending

The bank they worked for is credited with fueling a runaway Irish property market that came crashing down amid the 2008 global credit crisis.

Irish fraud and criminal investigators have attempted to assign blame for massive accounting deceptions that helped destroy the lender and drive Ireland itself to the brink of bankruptcy. The bank's failure cost the state 30 billion euros ($33 billion),

equivalent to around 15 percent of Ireland's annual economic output.

Since then, investigators have uncovered schemes to hide illegal loans and mega-billion losses from shareholders. But a series of trials so far have produced only suspended or overturned sentences.

Former CEO returns

Meanwhile, the former head of the bank, David Drumm, was charged on Monday on 33 counts relating to its collapse following his extradition from the United States.

David Drumm

Former Anglo Irish CEO David Drumm

Drumm spent his first night home in Ireland since 2009 in police custody but walked free after his family helped provide a 150,000 euro bail guarantee.

He now awaits possible trial on a series of allegations including false accounting and fraud dating back to 2008 and 2009. Investigators say the charges relate mainly to allegations that Drumm gave a false picture of the bank's stability.

Drumm denies any wrongdoing. His case is not expected to be heard until next year.

Ireland's economy has since recovered and is

seeing the strongest growth within the eurozone.

mm/kms (AP, Reuters)

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