Bank's Barings report ready

BY JOHN EISENHAMMER

Financial Editor

The Bank of England is showing parts of its report on Barings to the individuals most closely involved in the merchant bank's collapse. Sources confirmed yesterday that all the statements are being given their final check, and that the part of the Bank's investigations into who knew what and when is almost complete.

The Bank is expected to get the publication to the Chancellor in early June. Sources said that passages of the inquiry are being shown to most of the 23 individuals who have left Barings since its collapse under massive derivatives losses in February.

Statements have been taken from Peter Baring, former Barings chairman; Andrew Tuckey, ex-chief executive; Peter Norris, ex-head of securities, and Ronald Baker, who was in charge of derivatives and was the direct London boss of Nick Leeson, the Singapore-based trader who conducted the ruinous speculation.

Having first said it would wait for the Bank of England to apportion responsibilities in Barings' collapse, ING, the merchant bank's new Dutch owner, decided last month that the official investigations were taking too long. On 1 May, all senior managers who had had direct or indirect responsibility for Mr Leeson and derivatives trading in Asia were obliged to resign.

ING had apparently not found evidence to link individuals in London to the fraud accusations being levelled against Leeson. The resignations were a response to managers taking responsibility for a widespread failure in internal controls.

The Bank of England has the power to ban individuals from working in the City should it find them guilty of gross incompetence or negligence. The Bank's efforts to put together a complete picture of how Barings collapsed, and the role of the main players, has been hampered by a lack of cooperation from the Singapore authorities.

The Serious Fraud Office, which has virtually completed its own investigation into the London side of Barings' demise, has complained to Singapore that it still has only a very imperfect understanding of what went on because most the key documents are in Singapore. But the authorities there have turned down British investigators' requests to see them. Sources suggest this may be because Singapore is lobbying to have Mr Leeson extradited from Germany, having made a request based largely on the documentary evidence it alone has access to.

The Bank of England is believed to have suffered from similar difficulties in getting to see the documentation on how Mr Leeson conducted his trades, and apparently falsified accounts and information. Sources claim there is some evidence that certain individuals at Barings in London knew more about the nature of Mr Leeson's speculation, which brought the bank down with losses approaching £900m, than has hitherto been admitted.

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