Leeson's lawyer to attack investigators

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The Independent Online
DAVID HELLIER

The lawyer acting for Nick Leeson, the former Barings derivatives trader, is expected to launch an attack on the UK authorities today, arguing that his client is in danger of being made a scapegoat for the whole affair.

His attack comes days before the expected publication of the Bank of England report into the affair, which even Bank officials admit will be incomplete because nobody from the investigating team has been able to speak to Mr Leeson.

In spite of being possibly the central figure behind the collapse of the merchant bank, Mr Leeson has not been interviewed either by the Bank or the Serious Fraud Office, the two British authorities conducting inquiries into how Barings collapsed so spectacularly earlier this year.

Stephen Pollard, Mr Leeson's lawyer, is expected to argue at a press conference today that the British authorities have not fought hard enough to extradite or even interview his client, who faces extradition instead to Singapore, where he is likely to be prosecuted.

The press conference will be attended by Mr Leeson's wife, Lisa, who left Singapore with her husband just before Barings' collapse.

The expected counter-attack from the Leeson camp comes as sources close to the Bank of England openly admit that its long-awaited report into the affair is "pretty incomplete" because of the failure to interview Mr Leeson and the Bank's inability to obtain certain court documents from Singapore. The Bank's three-volume, near 500-page report was handed to the Treasury on Monday.

A Bank spokesman confirmed yesterday that investigators "have not been able to talk to Leeson".

The Bank's investigators have tried to interview Mr Leeson, sources say, but were informed that he would only talk if they could guarantee that the Bank would seek his extradition from Frankfurt.

The Bank, according to sources, argues that it does not have the powers to seek such an extradition.

The Serious Fraud Office does not appear to have interviewed Mr Leeson either.

Sources close to the investigations say the SFO's approach has been "piecemeal" and the prosecuting authority has so far used none of its special interviewing powers to obtain evidence that might result in criminal prosecutions in the UK. The SFO would make no comment yesterday.

Last month George Staple, the SFO's director, told MPs that he could not rule out prosecutions in the UK. He was replying to questions about whether his office was investigating allegations of fraudulent trading. Two days later Michael O'Brien Kenney, a senior accountant on the case, advised that after a preliminary investigation - which did not involve any interviewing of witnesses - he considered there would be no merit in further investigating allegations of fraudulent trading.

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