A Romanian court has acquitted a businessman and 11 other people of defrauding the state of $85 million (€68 million) by money laundering and illegally manipulating markets to financially benefit a major oil company.

The trial against Dinu Patriciu — general manager of Rompetrol SA and a onetime rival of President Traian Basescu — began in 2006.

Magistrates on Tuesday dismissed all the charges but did not present their arguments for the ruling.

Prosecutors had charged that from September 1999 to November 2001, Patriciu siphoned off money using a network of insiders and a former government minister, and transferred it to his company funds. They demanded a 20-year sentence for Patriciu.

The ruling can be appealed, but there was no immediate comment from prosecutors or the defendants.