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Hung Jury in Irish Financier Case

February 22, 2000

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ An Irishman extradited from Oklahoma to Northern Ireland last year was freed on bail Monday after a judge declared a hung jury in his six-week trial.

George Finbarr Ross, 54, faces probable retrial on 39 criminal charges related to the 1984 collapse of his Gibraltar-registered investment bank, International Investments Ltd., which owed creditors $11.5 million.

Jurors offered no reason for their inability to reach a verdict after two days of deliberation.

Justice John Gillen ordered Ross freed on $230,000 bail on condition he report weekly to police.

Ross remains charged with 36 counts of false accounting and three counts of procuring funds under false pretenses. During the trial, Gillen threw out two other charges of procuring funds falsely.

Evidence offered by prosecutors showed that letters sent in Ross’ name to his clients in December 1983 reported their accounts were in good order. Months later, auditors declared the company hopelessly in debt.

Small-time investors _ many of them retirees who had invested between $1,100 and $35,000 on promises of returns ranging from 10 percent to 17 percent annually _ lost their entire holdings.

During his testimony, Ross said he had left Ireland for the United States in 1983 to develop the company’s American investment portfolio and did not realize how seriously in debt the venture was. He accused his business partners of mishandling its Irish investments and selling off the bank’s assets far too cheaply.

Ross resurfaced in the early 1990s in Oklahoma, serving as the financial director of a Christian religious community.

Northern Ireland authorities filed an extradition warrant with the U.S. government in 1996 after Irish newspapers discovered where he was living.