Bank chiefs ignored fears of Leeson's 'black hole'

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Nick Leeson yesterday claimed that senior officials at Barings failed to spot his illegal trading because they were obsessed with the bonuses they believed he would earn them.

In the first extract of his autobiography, Rogue Trader, he says Tony Railton, a senior bank official, spent a month investigating the hole in his balance sheet, but found nothing.

"If he'd been able to operate just one simple checking device, which any auditor should do first thing in the morning when they switch the machines on, he'd have seen some figures which would have given him a heart attack," claims Leeson, who is serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence in a Singapore jail, after bringing down Britain's oldest merchant bank .

Leeson, who lost pounds 850m in two years through his illegal trading on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange, claims Mr Railton had sat next to him for a month in his Singapore office. He heard Leeson's phone calls to London asking for more cash and had seen letters from Simex exchange detailing the 88888 account - where he hid his losses.

He claims that Barings bosses, fed on the "Nick Leeson success story", were completely unaware of what the rest of the market smelt - "that I was in so deep that there was no way out".

Leeson says bank officials, concerned about their bonuses, had shrugged off fears about a "black hole" and told him he had to earn another pounds 2m to secure their bonuses.