Government asked to act on Leeson

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The Independent Online
The Home Office said yesterday it was considering a request from the City of London Magistrates Court asking it to seek the extradition of the former Barings trader, Nick Leeson.

A group of Barings bondholders, who have lost around pounds 100m as a result of the bank's collapse, have managed to get the court to issue eight summonses demanding that Mr Leeson, who is currently in a Frankfurt jail, appears in a London Court on 30 October.

The summonses have been sent to Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, who must now decide whether to submit a request to the German authorities for Mr Leeson's extradition.

Mr Leeson has been held in Germany since flying there in March after the Barings collapse. The German authorities are expected to announce next week whether to accept an extradition request from Singapore, although this latest move might delay that decision.

The Singapore authorities want Mr Leeson for alleged forgery, fraud and illegal transfer of funds. But his lawyers have always argued that there is a strong case for him to be tried in the UK.

Mr Leeson has recently been interviewed by Britain's Serious Fraud Office with a view to persuading them he has a case to answer in this country. But the SFO says, and it repeated its view yesterday, that the majority of Mr Leeson's alleged offences took place in Singapore, where he worked, and that it would be more appropriate for him to be tried there.

Yesterday's development introduces a new element to the proceedings in that the Government will now have to get involved in the legal wrangle about where to try Mr Leeson. The action was a private prosecution brought by one of the bond-holders, Jonathan Stone. The action group he heads speaks for around 55 per cent of the bond-holders.Mr Stone has laid information before the court, including allegations that Mr Leeson dishonestly obtained US$180m from Barings Securities by falsely representing contracts he had entered into on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange.

The bond-holders say all the alleged offences they laid before the court are within the jurisdiction of the UK criminal courts and that there is substantial public interest in the charges being heard here.

A statement from Mr Leeson's UK lawyers, Kingsley Napley, said they had been shown details of the eight summonses during the day.

"The effect of this is that there are now criminal proceedings against Mr Leeson in this country. Whilst we welcome this development, bearing in mind the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, it is not appropriate at this stage to comment further," it said.