The convoluted Carrian case ended as it began - with extremely large sums of money at stake. The taxpayer can at least take comfort from the fact that this drawn-out and often unfathomable case will impose its burden on the public purse no longer. George Tan's decision to plead guilty after a 13-year fight will save the taxpayer the crippling costs of a trial which might have dragged on for a further 18 months. In return, the Crown has dropped its corruption allegations, so Tan has succeeded in avoiding some of the charges he originally faced. The multi-billion dollar banking scandal made legal history as Hong Kong's most expensive prosecution. Although the bill has still not been finalised, it runs into hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which can be attributed directly to the Legal Department. Judge Michael Stuart-Moore has criticised the prosecution for allowing the investigation to spiral out of control following the collapse of the first trial in 1987. The verdict that many of the public will have drawn long ago from this legal soap opera is that the case presented lawyers with a field day which at times looked likely to continue into the millennium. The daunting complexity of the case, plus the time factor, ensured few lawyers had the expertise, and a sufficient grasp of the evidence, to take it on. Some of those who did, however, showed a propensity for landing in trouble themselves. Ultimately, the arrival of prosecution lawyer Martin Wilson from London brought a new clarity to the case. It has been presided over by a judge who showed great firmness of purpose; when his final verdict is announced next week, Carrian can be consigned to the history books. There is some comfort to be gained from the fact that valuable lessons have been learned. This has been particularly the case in the Legal Department - but also in the banking sector where rules have been tightened to safeguard against such scandals recurring.