ING ready to answer MPs over Barings

DAVID HELLIER

The Dutch banking and insurance group, ING, said yesterday it would co-operate as fully as possible with MPs' further inquiries into the collapse of Barings Bank. ING bought Barings soon after it was brought to its knees by Nick Leeson.

A spokeswoman said she could not make any comments on reports that key documents were shredded and records of telephone conversations between London and Singapore removed shortly after the bank collapsed.

"This is not an area I am free to discuss," a spokeswoman said yesterday.

MPs on the House of Commons Treasury and Civil Service Committee will recommence their inquiries into the bank's collapse early in the new year and Sir Tom Arnold, the committee's chairman, has been reported as saying that he will raise the matter of the destroyed records when former Barings executives face the committee.

Those expected to be called include Peter Baring, the bank's former chairman; his deputy, Andrew Tuckey, who is still working for the bank as an adviser; and Peter Norris, the bank's former chief executive.

ING said it had not yet received a detailed timetable for the MPs' inquiries. "As far as I am aware the Select Committee has not yet got any dates fixed," the ING spokeswoman said. "We are still waiting to hear the exact timetable." The MPs' committee is reported to have written to officials in Singapore to ask them whether they will be able to assist them in their inquiries.

Many MPs on the committee felt unhappy about the answers they received on the Barings affair from Bank of England officials earlier this year and are keen to probe further into the Bank's role in the affair.

The committee is likely to call Hessel Lindenbergh, who heads ING, which bought Barings for a nominal pounds 1. The bank is still being pursued by a group of bondholders who lost around pounds 100m in the collapse and feel that ING has a moral if not legal responsibility to offer to make up part of the deficit.

The MPs' determination to hold a further inquiry into the collapse - both the Bank of England's Board of Banking Supervision and the Singapore authorities have already reported the results of their inquiries - is unfortunate for ING, which had hoped to put the disaster well behind it.

Earlier this week ING reported that Barings had failed this year to meet the profitability targets set for it, largely because of a weakness in emerging markets.

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