Ireland’s most wanted man has been found dead in France after being on the run for over two decades.

The body of fugitive Robert Stapleton was found on a sidewalk by a passing pedestrian on Sunday May 22, in a town close to the city of Rennes in Brittany. Emergency services were called to the scene but were unable to resuscitate him. It is understood he may have suffered a heart attack.

The Irishman had been named on Britain's Top 10 Most Wanted list by Crimestoppers UK for many years.

An old Irish driving license was found on Stapleton’s body and French authorities are working Irish police on the case.

The exact cause of death is yet to be confirmed but initial autopsy reports found no sign of foul play.

English police claim the Irish man, originally from Kilkenny, was wanted in connection with 30 offences were he fraudulently obtained loans in excess of £5m for his businesses by inventing false overseas contracts.

The Irish Development Authority (IDA) lost IR£500,000 when one of his business ventures went into receivership in 1984.

Two years after that, Stapleton was described as the “mastermind” behind a credit card fraud scam in the UK.

Stapleton fled to Spain before charges could be brought against him. His wife Julia (64) was convicted on 20 counts of deception for her part in the fraud in 1986, she received a suspended sentence and later joined her husband in Spain.

The couple then returned to Ireland in 1994 where they bought a house in Enniskerry County Wicklow.

Stapleton then set up a software company 4th Millennium Ltd in Dublin. After purchasing a multi-million home in Rathcoole, Dublin, British police traced him in 2005 and Irish police swooped in to arrest him.

Initially Ireland’s High Court denied his extradition to England on the grounds that the alleged offences were too old.

However the Supreme Court later overturned the verdict and Stapleton was ordered to surrender to custody. It is understood he then fled to Spain and later France.