SFO unlikely to seek Leeson extradition to UK

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The Independent Online
The Serious Fraud Office has indicated that it is unlikely to make an extradition request for Nick Leeson, the former Barings trader, following its interviews with him in Frankfurt last week. The SFO, which finished its interviews last Thursday, is hoping to make a formal statement as early as today, or later in the week, on its position.

The BBC last night screened an interview with Mr Leeson in which he accepted responsibility for running a secret account to cover his losses. When the account was eventually closed by the administrators to Barings, it had accumulated a loss of about pounds 900m.

He said none of his superiors knew that he was dealing through the account which, he first used in September 1992 to protect a female colleague who had made losses of pounds 20,000.

In the past few weeks the Leeson camp has run a carefully planned campaign, which climaxed in last night's interview, in the hope of persuading the British authorities to try to extradite him to the United Kingdom. However, sources suggest the SFO has heard nothing to dissuade it from its original view that Singapore is the most appropriate venue for a trial of Mr Leeson.

It is currently deciding whether the interviews with him under caution give it sufficient basis to apply for extradition to the UK in the event of the Singaporean application failing. The decision on where to try Mr Leeson rests now with the German courts who have to decide on Singapore's request.

The application is being resisted by his German solicitor, but the indications are that the request will be granted.

The German state prosecutor, Gernot Brochard, said yesterday that it is likely to postpone a decision until next week to give Mr Leeson's lawyer a final chance to present a new written agreement.

Mr Leeson has offered to plead guilty to at least five charges of false accounting if he were to be brought back to the UK. But the SFO believes most of the evidence against him is in Singapore and that he committed the offences there. The SFO has also found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by any of Mr Leeson's senior managers in the UK.

Last night's Frost interview was greeted with relief as Mr Leeson largely confirmed the official version of events.