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Convictions of first Irish bankers jailed since crisis quashed

A woman is seen walking past a branch of the Anglo Irish Bank in Belfast in this September 28, 2010 file photograph. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

DUBLIN (Reuters) - An Irish appeals court on Tuesday quashed the convictions of two former officials of the failed Anglo Irish Bank who last year became the first bankers to be sent to prison since the country's financial crash.

Former chief operations officer Tiarnan O'Mahoney, 56, and former company secretary Bernard Daly, 67, had been jailed for three and two years respectively for conspiring to delete bank accounts and furnishing false information to tax authorities.

They both appealed and the three judge court quashed their convictions on Tuesday, saying crucial documentary evidence was wrongly admitted before the jury.

"The evidence available to the prosecution was thin, was tenuous and in those circumstances the court finds itself in disagreement with the trial judge," the 57-page judgement stated.

The court also said the charges against Daly were not brought in time and he was released from custody. O'Mahoney is due to be released on bail while a decision on whether he will be retried is made.

A third Anglo official, who was given an 18 month sentence, was freed last year following an appeal when her original sentence was quashed.

The charges related to conspiring to hide accounts connected to the brother-in-law of former Anglo Chariman Sean Fitzpatrick and of conspiring to defraud the tax authorities.

The bank's failure, which became synonymous with the casino-style lending practices that drove Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" boom and subsequent bust, cost the state 30 billion euros (£23.5 billion), equivalent to around 15 percent of Ireland's annual economic output.

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.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Ralph Boulton)