Former Midland Businessman of the Year Chris Swan last night vowed to clear his name after being banned by the High Court from being a company director for four years after an investigation into the collapse of Finelist.

Mr Swan, aged 46, of Alveston, near Stratford-on-Avon, said the case had so far cost him £500,000 plus "an enormous amount of stress" on himself and his family.

He added that he was prepared to take his case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

The investigation into the 2000 collapse of Mr Swan's car parts business concluded with a judge saying he had found "no lack of probity" on the part of Mr Swan - who remains as chairman of the Hereford and Worcestershire Learning & Skills Council, a £120 million-a-year turnover organisation. But he was banned from holding a company directorship for four years for failing to properly inquire into a "cheque kiting" policy conducted by the Finelist group. Cheque kiting involved the passing of equal and opposite cheques between two group companies in order to take advantage of the cheque clearing period.

This process was conducted on a daily basis for more than 18 months. The cheques signed by Mr Swan contributed £10 million of a total of £18 million of artificial credit for the Finelist Group.

Finelist, based in Strafordupon-Avon, which had been a leading supplier to the UK's aftermarket for vehicle parts and accessories and customer products, failed in 2000 with estimated debts of £500 million.

It ranked as one of Britain's biggest corporate crashes and came just six months after the business was taken over by French group Autodis.

The High Court has also imposed a three-year directorship ban on a second Finelist executive, Brian North, following an inquiry into his role.

In giving his judgement Mr Justice Etherton said that Mr Swan's conduct "falls so far below the level of competence to be expected of a director in his position".

The judge went on to say that Mr Swan, as chairman and chief executive of the group, had "wholly abdicated his responsibilities of care and control" and had therefore allowed and participated in the improper practice of cheque kiting.

Mr North, aged 70, of Sunningdale, Berkshire, a chartered accountant and former non-executive director and deputy chairman of the group, failed to deal appropriately with a serious whistle-blowing incident. In relation to Mr North, described as a highly experienced non-executive director, the judge said "the lapse in judgement was a very serious one, at precisely the moment and in the type of situation in which decisive, courageous and independent action is required by a nonexecutive director".

The Insolvency Service did not allege, and Mr Swan and Mr North both denied, that this unfit conduct caused the receivership of Finelist. The judge did not find any lack of probity on the part of Mr Swan or Mr North. .

Two other Finelist executives, finance director Sadhana Reddy and marketing director Brian Ritchie, were previously banned for eight years and five years respectively. They gave undertakings not to serve as directors for those periods at a hearing in November 2003.

Mr Swan, who described himself as a "serial entrepreneur" founded Finelist in 1991 after heading the management buyout of Autela Components.

Reputed to be worth some £7 million, he was named Midlands Businessman of the Year in 1997 on the back of the success of Finelist, which became a £1 billion-a-year listed business employing 7,500 people.

Its shares crashed in 1999 after a bid to merge with rival Partco foundered, and the company was later sold to Autodis for £159 million.

Six months later, Autodis, which subsequently carried on trading, dramatically put Finelist into receivership.