Singapore puts extradition case

JOHN EISENHAMMER

and DAVID HELLIER

Singapore's report into the collapse of Barings has been handed to Singapore's Ministry of Finance, authorities there said yesterday. The substantial document, based on key evidence not made available to the Bank of England, contains the main arguments for the extradition from Germany of Nick Leeson, the Barings derivatives trader whose near-pounds 900m of losses broke the bank in February.

The report, carried out by Michael Lim and Nicky Tan of Price Waterhouse Singapore, contains substantial evidence of fraud and misconduct, according to sources familiar with the findings, as well as withering criticism of former senior Barings' executives in London, notably Peter Norris, the ex-head of securities. The investigators have interviewed some 70 people in London, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. "This has been a much wider and more detailed inquiry than the Bank of England's," said a source close to the investigation.

While it is generally believed the authorities intend to publish the report, opinions are divided over the timing. A senior legal source said it would be by the end of this month. Others think the authorities will wait until the extradition of Mr Leeson is successfully concluded, and perhaps even for the trial to be completed, for fear of prejudicing the proceedings.

Mr Leeson, meanwhile, is expected to finish his interview with the Serious Fraud Office today in Frankfurt. He has been talking to three representatives from the UK prosecuting authority since the middle of last week. Sources had suggested ahead of the end of the interview that so far Mr Leeson had told the SFO nothing that was likely to persuade them to apply for his extradition to the UK in competition with Singapore.

Mr Leeson had presented the British authorities with a written account of what he hoped to tell them before they flew to Frankfurt, so in some ways it is no surprise that his oral account has created few shock waves.

However, there is bound to be profound disappointment from his camp if the evidence he has given from his Frankfurt jail fails to cause a re- think over where his trial may take place. Mr Leeson is not understood to have implicated anybody else at Barings in criminal wrongdoing.

Authorities in Singapore and the UK have not yet decided what to do with the evidence he has given to the SFO. But it seems unlikely that the SFO will hand over evidence to Singapore without the Singapore authorities applying through the British courts. If a request is made, it is expected to refer to the Mutual Assistance Act 1990, which allows for the passing over of information in financial fraud cases between different jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, Mr Leeson's television interview with Sir David Frost, his first media interview since his arrest in February, is to be shown on BBC on Monday evening.

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