Leeson comes in from the cold to trade on notoriety

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The Independent Online

Nick Leeson, the rogue trader who brought down Britain's oldest merchant bank, this week earned £60,000 for giving a speech - on the state of the world's financial markets.

Nick Leeson, the rogue trader who brought down Britain's oldest merchant bank, this week earned £60,000 for giving a speech - on the state of the world's financial markets.

On Thursday night he addressed members of the Dutch stock exchange, each of whom paid £200 for the privilege of listening to his words of wisdom, so marking the start of a promising-looking media career. He will also appear on the Netherlands' leading business TV programme on Sunday as part of the same deal.

A spokesman for Mr Leeson said yesterday he had received a number of offers for other appearances and from the advertising industry, but he has not yet signed any contracts. He is likely to appear on television endorsing one European product in the next month and will fulfil a number of other speaking engagements.

The new stance contrasts with the low profile Mr Leeson has been keeping since he returned to Britain in July, after serving three-and-a-half years in the Tanah Merah prison in Singapore. He was jailed after losing £850m on the Far East futures market through fraudulent trading.

Mr Leeson was employed as a derivatives trader in the Singapore office of Barings Bank, and his actions led to the collapse of the bank in February 1995. He has an order for £100m round his neck, which he is supposed to pay personally.

The spokesman emphasised that Mr Leeson was pursuing his new career with the approval of Barings' liquidators, City accountants Ernst & Young. Most of the money earned by Mr Leeson will go to the liquidators to help repay the millions lost by Barings' bondholders in the collapse, he said. Mr Leeson, 32, would keep "substantially less than 50 per cent" of the money earned by his media work, the spokesman added. Other sources put this figure at 35 per cent.

Earlier this month it emerged that Mr Leeson has been co-operating fully with the liquidators in their efforts to sue Barings' auditors, accountants Coopers & Lybrand (since merged into PricewaterhouseCoopers) on the grounds of negligence.

He was said to have talked the liquidators through every stage of his dealings, in order to show what could or could not have been spotted by the auditors. The auditors are denying all responsibility. In what is being billed as one of the most damaging legal clashes ever seen in the City of London, the case involves more than £1bn. It is due to come to trial in February 2001, and is expected to last at least three months.

Mr Leeson's own assets were frozen during his imprisonment, and to spend money he must still apply in writing to the liquidators two days in advance. The order is aimed at freezing any Barings' funds yet to come to light, but he is allowed £5,000 a month for legal, medical and living expenses.

While in prison he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon, for which he is still receiving treatment and he is spending a lot of his time doing unpaid work for other colon cancer sufferers. His wife Lisa also left him, re-married and is now expecting a child.

His main income since release has been the £100, 000 he was paid by a newspaper for serialisation rights to his book - Rogue Trader - about his experiences. This was made into a film, released earlier this year, starring Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel. But Mr Leeson is still waiting to see if he will get any extra revenue from the film, which was greeted with almost universal critical hostility.

Since his release, he also became embroiled in a dispute at the prestigious London Golf Club, based in Kent, where he was re-admitted, much to the chagrin of some other members. Membership of the club can cost up to £26,000 a year.

He is said to play there twice a week, but otherwise has until now rarely been seen in public. One sighting in August had him going to a football match - with his lawyer.

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