Leeson `answerable to no one'

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The Independent Online
Leeson may have been planning to flee Singapore as long as a month ago, according to colleagues. A number of removal firms were asked to give Leeson quotes on the cost of shipping all his belongings out of Singapore.

From sources in Singapore and London, the Independent has built up a detailed picture of Leeson's final weeks.

Two to three weeks ago, Peter Norris, chief executive officer of Baring Securities flew to Singapore to congratulate Leeson on the profits he had been earning to for the bank.

Over a slap-up lunch, Leeson was told that his bonus for last year would be $2m. Other traders under his command would receive bonuses of a similar order, commensurate with their basic salaries.

Behind Leeson's back, however, there was serious concern over his activities. Already London had funded huge margin calls on his trading strategy.

Norris told Peter Jones, one of the three who ran the Singapore operation, to check out all Leeson's activities. Because Leeson was such a high earner for the bank, however, it was to be done in a way which would not upset him.

Barings was at that stage in the midst of a complex reorganisation. Leeson was not directly answerable to Jones. Because of the "matrix" management structure then in place he answered to one boss on futures trading, another on sales and yet another on settlement, all of them in London. "In other words, he was answerable to no-one", one source said.

Engrossed in other things, it was not until last Thursday that Jones, who is helping police with enquiries in Singapore, got round to questioning Leeson in detail about his activities. Jones demanded to look at all Leeson's books and client accounts. Leeson then took a phone call from his wife Lisa and in a state of apparent agitation told him he would have to visit the local hospital immediately since she had had a miscarriage. That was the last they saw of him.

Leeson later phoned colleagues to to say he was being made into a scapegoat for what London knew about all along. "There are a lot of people who would much rather I was never seen again" he told one and he promised to "name names" going right up to the top.

Colleagues believe Leeson must have had a collaborator to hide the transactions behind fictitious clients. Many of the trades failed to show on reports dispatched to London and to outside auditors. "Leeson was a pocket calculator man with no computer skills", said one familiar with him. "He would have to have been told of the computer loophole that allowed him to do all this".

Three seperate audits, the last of which was in January, had failed to show fraudulent activity. There was one internal audit, conducted by Tony Hawe from Barings treasury department in London, one by external auditors oopers & Lybrand, and one by the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (Simex).