By Nate Raymond and Edward Krudy
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The top federal prosecutor in Manhattan said Monday that there was "insufficient" evidence to prove any crimes occurred when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo disbanded an anti-corruption panel only nine months after he had convened it.
The announcement lifts a cloud over Cuomo, a Democrat, and his administration after what became a series of investigations by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office that brought down the leaders of the state's two legislative houses for corruption.
Those legislators, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, were found guilty in separate federal trials in December.
Cuomo established the Moreland Commission in July 2013 only to disband it in March 2014. The Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, as it was formally known, was convened after the state capital Albany had been plagued by a series of scandals involving lawmakers.
It was meant to investigate violations of campaign finance laws and other matters but was hobbled from the start by demands from the governor's office, despite a promise of independence, The New York Times reported in 2014.
Bharara said in a statement that "absent any additional proof that may develop, there is insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime" occurred in the commission's closing.
Bharara also said, however, that investigations were not over "related to substantive inquiries that were being conducted by the Moreland Commission at the time of its closure."
The announcement appeared timely for Cuomo, who in two days will deliver an annual State of the State address focused on infrastructure and transportation building initiatives.
"We were always confident there was no illegality here, and we appreciate the U.S. Attorney clarifying this for the public record," said Elkan Abramowitz, a lawyer for Cuomo's office.
Bharara criticized the panel's closure as preventing it from pursuing its work, and in April 2014, announced his office had moved to seize the commission's files.
Bharara has said "a deal was cut that cut off the commission's work" to the relief of Silver amid litigation over subpoenas about his outside income.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Grant McCool)