German court backs Leeson extradition

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The Independent Online

A German court yesterday approved the extradition to Singapore of Nick Leeson, the former Barings futures trader, to face 11 charges connected with the bank's collapse.

The decision by the Frankfurt Regional Court does not mean immediate extradition for Mr Leeson but it looks increasingly likely now that he will eventually face trial in Singapore.

Yesterday's decision still has to be reviewed by the German government in Bonn and Mr Leeson's lawyers have made it clear that they will appeal to the German Federal Constitutional Court.

The Frankfurt court, as expected, yesterday upheld Mr Leeson's extradition on three charges of forgery, two of defrauding Barings Futures Singapore and six of defrauding the Singapore International Monetary Exchange. The court dismissed a charge of falsification of documents, ironically the one on which Mr Leeson was first held when he was arrested in Germany in March.

The Frankfurt public prosecutor, Hans-Hermann Eckert, said the court had considered Singapore's legal standards and had received a report from the German embassy.

Mr Eckert held out little chance of the defence being able to block extradition to Singapore. "The chances not to go to Singapore are very small," he said. In his view Mr Leeson was certain to get a fair trial in Singapore.

Stephen Pollard, Mr Leeson's UK solicitor, said he was disappointed by the decision of the German court. "There are clear grounds of appeal against the decision to extradite in respect of at least eight of the remaining charges," he said.

"This appeal will be pursued by way of reference by the Federal Constitutional Court which will be submitted within the permitted one month time limit."

Legal sources suggested that the German constitutional court might take up to two months to decide whether the defence had an admissible case for appeal and that if it agreed to an appeal being heard the whole process could take up to a year. But there is a growing possibility that Mr Leeson's extradition could come in weeks, rather than months.

Meanwhile, in London, sources close to the Serious Fraud Office hinted that it would try later this week, possibly via a court appearance, to prevent a group of Barings bond-holders from pursuing a private prosecution against Mr Leeson, which would involve a trial in the UK.