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Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman cleared of fraud

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LONDON (AP) — A jury Wednesday cleared former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick of all fraud charges related to a loans-for-shares scheme that preceded the bank's 2009 collapse.

The 65-year-old FitzPatrick had denied providing illegal financial help to selected clients.

The verdict removes the final charges against FitzPatrick. Other charges against him were dismissed by Judge Martin Nolan last week. The jury is still considering charges against two other bank directors: Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer.

The Dublin Circuit Criminal Court case is the first prosecution related to the collapse of the bank, an event regarded as having brought Ireland to the brink of national bankruptcy.

The ongoing 11-week-old case is viewed as Ireland's most complex financial criminal case. The three directors had been accused of secretly lending more than 500 million euros ($700 million) to top clients for them to buy Anglo's sagging shares in 2008.

Anglo's imminent collapse in 2008 forced Ireland to rescue it and the country's five other native banks. The snowballing cost of that effort — the taxpayer bill topped 63 billion euros, a third the size of Ireland's gross domestic product — overwhelmed the ability of Ireland to finance itself and culminated in a 2010 international bailout.

It is one of several scandals involving hidden loans and losses that destroyed what had been, during Ireland's long Celtic Tiger boom, one of Europe's most dynamic and aggressive banks with worldwide property investments.

Ireland has since ended its dependence on subsidized loans from European partners and the International Monetary Fund as it continues to recover.

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