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Leeson to Be Formally Charged in Singapore

From Associated Press

After spending 8 1/2 months in a German jail, securities trader Nicholas Leeson was returned here Thursday to stand trial in the $1.4-billion collapse of Barings bank.

On the 12-hour Singapore Airlines flight from Frankfurt, Leeson, 28, was accompanied by his wife, Lisa, two attorneys and officials of Singapore’s fraud squad. The in-flight movie was the crime film “Bad Boys.”

Leeson is accused of forging documents and creating fictitious accounts to hide unauthorized trading while he was manager of Barings’ futures trading arm in Singapore. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. (White-collar crimes are not punishable by flogging in Singapore.)

A dozen reporters were aboard Leeson’s flight, but security guards kept them away. Another 100 reporters were waiting at the Singapore airport.

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Leeson fled Singapore on Feb. 23 as Barings was crumbling under the $1.4 billion in losses that he had amassed in wrong bets on the future of the Japanese stock market. Four days later, the 232-year-old British bank was declared bankrupt. Its remnants were later bought by ING Groep, a Dutch financial holding company.

Leeson and his wife were on their way to London when he was arrested in Germany on March 2. He fought extradition to Singapore, saying he would not be able to get a fair trial there, but relented recently after Singapore investigators issued a report that also criticized his superiors at Barings.

Leeson is to appear in court today to be charged formally. He will not be required to enter a plea, and the judge can order him held pending further investigation.

There was no indication when a trial might start. The trial is expected to bring out in the open senior officials’ role in the Barings collapse.

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A report by Singapore investigators last month said that Peter Norris, chief of Barings’ investment banking arm, and James Bax, Leeson’s supervisor in Singapore, ignored danger signs, continued to supply Leeson with money and covered up his trading losses. Neither Norris nor Bax has responded to the accusations.

Leeson, the son of a plasterer from Watford, England, made millions of dollars for Barings by betting on the movement of Japan’s stock market. But when the market fell unexpectedly, he kept doubling his bets in hopes of covering his losses--until Barings’ entire cash reserves were wiped out.

An investigation by the Bank of England put much of the blame on Leeson. He has agreed to help Singapore investigators.


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