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Ignominious fall for a 'holier-than-thou'

TO the very end, Jim Lacey insisted he acted with a degree of probity above and beyond other Irish bank bosses during the 1990s. It was a hollow claim, chiselled out in a daring attempt to salvage his reputation.

Having X-rayed the veneer, the High Court found the audacious foundations of Mr Lacey's claims were shallow and as brittle as concrete laced with pyrite.

In one of his later court appearances, in summer 2009, Mr Lacey sought to persuade the judge hearing the disqualification application by the Director of Corporate Enforcement that he had adhered to the highest of standards while chief executive of National Irish Bank.

In his mind, the blame for the infamous bogus non-resident accounts scandal at the institution lay at anybody's door but his.

They were pleas that the corporate enforcement watchdog dismissed, telling the court that there had been a "catastrophic" failure of corporate governance at the bank during Mr Lacey's tenure as its chief. Yesterday, the court agreed.

With an engaging public persona, Mr Lacey, who turns 51 next month, became a high-profile bank boss and was branded the 'Fergal Quinn of banking', after the effervescent Superquinn founder.

Surrounded by a coterie of young guns -- 20pc of staff at the bank were under 21 years of age by 1991 -- Mr Lacey promised to "treat customers well. . . and provide the sorts of products they needed".

What some of them needed of course, was help with dodging the taxman, and National Irish Bank willingly obliged.

By 1993, non-resident accounts made up 45pc of all deposits at the bank's head office branch.

For his family, Mr Lacey's public profile would come to haunt them. In 1993, just a year before he was sacked as chief executive of the bank, criminals pounced on him and his wife at 1.30am in the grounds of their Dublin home as they returned from Tipperary.

They, their four children and a babysitter were all held hostage by a seven-man gang in a kidnapping thought to have been orchestrated by notorious criminal Martin Cahill.

Irish Independent