Court bars Baring bondholders' case

The Barings bondholders were yesterday told that they could not put their arguments to the magistrates' court about the Serious Fraud Office's decision to take over and then drop their private prosecution of Nick Leeson, the former Barings futures trader.

Although the bondholders were heard in part yesterday the court ruled that their full arguments were inadmissible.

However, the City of London magistrates' court decided that it needed to hear evidence from Mr Leeson's lawyers, who were unable to attend yesterday's meeting, before it could decide whether to agree to the SFO's request for a withdrawal of the summonses against Mr Leeson.

The court adjourned until tomorrow when there will be a brief hearing to allow Mr Leeson's legal representatives either to present objections to the dropping of the private prosection or to estimate how much time they will need to do so.

Last night the bondholders, who lost millions of pounds in the Barings debacle, were deciding whether to take their opposition to the SFO's move to the High Court.

Last month the bondholders laid eight summonses against Mr Leeson before the court and had them accepted. Their prosecution could have resulted in Mr Leeson having a trial in the UK. However, the director of the SFO, George Staple, then wrote to the bondholders telling them of his intention to take the case over and drop it.

Michael Hill, QC, representing the bondholders, told the court yesterday that his clients were given a peremptory demand from the SFO to provide its director by noon on the following day with the evidence on which the bondholders were basing their case.

Jonathan Caplan, QC, argued for the SFO that the director had decided that Singapore was the most appropriate place for a trial after taking into account all the arguments.