Leeson offers to help fraud office

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The Independent Online
Nick Leeson, the futures trader at the centre of the Barings Bank collapse, was being made a "scapegoat" for others, his lawyer claimed yesterday.

Speaking in Frankfurt, Stephen Pollard, of the London-based law firm Kingsley Napley, said there was no way that Mr Leeson had single-handedly brought down the bank by running up losses of more than £900m from its Singapore office. He also said his client would be happy to help the Serious Fraud Office in its inquiries into the chain of events that led to the bank's collapse late last month.

"Mr Leeson has given me some very interesting information about what was going on in the bank leading up to February . . . and it is by no means impossible that he might offer his assistance [with inquiries] if such assistance were sought."

Senior Barings officials have denied knowledge of the extent of the risks Mr Leeson was taking by buying up millions of pounds worth of derivatives contracts on the bank's behalf.

Mr Leeson was arrested in Frankfurt a week ago and is in custody pending the outcome of an appeal for extradition by Singapore, which is preparingcharges of forgery, fraud and breach of trust.

Mr Pollard, who is acting together with a German lawyer Eberhard Kempf, said yesterday that the best chance for Mr Leeson to avoid trial in Singapore lay in a counter-request for extradition from Britain.

Mr Kempf even suggested the defence lawyers might help in the preparation of charges. "It is rare that a defence counsel would seek to initiate legal proceedings against their own client," he conceded. "But this is an extraordinary case."

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