Extradition deal promises fewer charges for Leeson

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The Independent Online
Nick Leeson is likely to face fewer charges over the Barings Bank collapse as a result of his decision not to fight extradition to Singapore.

Legal sources involved in the investigation into the pounds 830m loss believe lawyers acting for the trader have concluded a deal with the Singapore authorities in return for information that could lead to further people being charged.

"It will involve reducing the number of charges against Leeson, rather than guaranteeing him a lower sentence," said one source. "Of course, however, these go hand in hand. The fewer the charges, the shorter the sentence is likely to be."

Mr Leeson, 28, announced on Sunday that he had decided to drop his appeal against extradition from Germany after being convinced that he would be given a fair trial in Singapore. Until now, his main objection to the extradition was that a fair trial - without a jury - would be impossible and he would be made a scapegoat. He faces 11 charges of fraud and forgery.

Yesterday, his lawyers refused to confirm or deny a deal had been struck with Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department, the equivalent of Britain's Serious Fraud Office, but Stephen Pollard, his solicitor in London, confirmed that discussions had been held.

"John Koh [Leeson's solicitor in Singapore] has made it clear to the CAD that Mr Leeson will answer any questions from them to the extent that if they ask the right questions.they will be given the full facts.

"Even if they don't ask the right questions, he will still steer them to the right answers. He won't be naming names in the crudest sense, but he will give information about the structure of the bank, the lack of support he received, the extent of management incompetence and the in-fighting that exacerbated the problems."

The development could have a significant effect on Mr Leeson's superiors in Singapore and London. James Bax and Simon Jones, the two most senior Barings executives in Singapore, have had their passports impounded.

In London, attention has focused on Peter Norris, the former Barings chief executive, who was accused in the Singaporean authorities' own report of covering up vital warnings.

Mr Pollard said Mr Leeson would probably be flown out to Singapore by the end of the month where he will be held at the notorious Changi jail.

Walter Woon, a law professor and a Singapore parliamentarian, said: "If he pleads guilty and co-operates fully, and there is legal evidence that he was just a pawn in a larger game, he might get off with a sentence of only 12 months."