BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A judge has dismissed counterfeiting charges against Ahmad Chalabi, a senior political figure once considered a front-runner to become Iraq's leader, authorities said Friday.

The charges against Chalabi, a wealthy Iraqi exile and one-time Pentagon favorite, were dismissed ``for lack of evidence,'' said Zuhair al-Maliky, Iraq's chief investigative judge.

Al-Maliky told The Associated Press that the charges could be refiled, however, should more evidence be uncovered. The decision to drop the case was made during a court session Thursday. Chalabi has denied any wrongdoing.

``I am sure they are not going to find any evidence against Chalabi, because there was no evidence from the beginning,'' said Haiydar al-Mousawi, a Chalabi aide.

Al-Maliky first issued a warrant against Chalabi in August, accusing him of a complex counterfeiting scheme involving old Iraqi dinars removed from circulation at the beginning of the year.

The case stems from counterfeit Iraqi cash found in Chalabi's home during a raid by U.S. and Iraqi forces in May. Iraqi authorities declined to act on the warrant after it was issued.

Chalabi was a longtime favorite of conservatives in the Bush administration. After the war, he was a member of Iraq's Governing Council, which later was dissolved and gave way to the interim government.

Chalabi, who heads the Iraqi National Congress, a party that primarily gathers Iraqi exiles, was one of the most vocal proponents of the use of military force to depose former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Since then, he has fallen out with his one-time backers and was left out of Iraq's interim government.

In 1992, a Jordanian court convicted Chalabi in absentia of embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust after a bank he ran collapsed with about $300 million in missing deposits. The court sentenced him to 22 years in prison.

Chalabi, who left Jordan before the case went to trial, has long denied the charges, saying Saddam was behind them.