Trader `sorry' for losing pounds 6m

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The Independent Online
THE TRADER who forced the closure of a respected trading house broke cover yesterday and apologised for his actions as 100 associates gathered at a crisis meeting to demand compensation.

After spending a week in hiding, John Ho Park said he was sorry for what he had done, then broke into tears. "I am sorry," said Mr Ho Park, who was traced by reporters to an address in central London where he has been staying with his girlfriend, Charlotte Curling.

A Cambridge graduate and the son of a Korean millionaire, Mr Ho Park, 27, sparked the biggest trading scandal to hit the City since Nick Leeson broke Barings Bank after gambling on German government bonds. Over a two- day period before Christmas he lost at least pounds 6.2m, causing the collapse of the Griffin Trading Company.

Yesterday, at a heated meeting called by the Financial Services Authority regulatory body, about 100 self-employed Liffe futures traders called on the officials to get their cash back.

They were told that while they may recoup up to 50 per cent of their investments - amounts ranging between pounds 15,000 and pounds 1m - it will take a minimum of between six and eight weeks. The mood at themeeting became increasingly ugly and the FSA's officials were booed and heckled.

"We are the fall guys in all of this. Why is it the small guys who have lost out?" said one trader. Another shouted: "Are the Serious Fraud Office going to be called in to investigate?"

The SFO said yesterday that it was not investigating Mr Ho Park, though the FSA said if it uncovered any wrong-doing it would not hesitate to call in the "appropriate authorities".

The provisional liquidator of Griffin in the UK, Finbarr O'Connell of accountants Grant Thornton, told the meeting he would be speaking to Mr Ho Park in the next few days.

Mr Thornton said he would have to take legal advice before making any decision about how any remaining money should be divided.

At the heart of the scandal is the way in which the traders work. To trade, individuals have to be able to cover their costs and place money on deposit with a respected firm.

Many traders were shocked to find that Mr Ho Park was able to gain access to this centrally held pot of money to fund his trading.

It was clear yesterday the traders thought the type of accounts they held - known as "segregated funds" - offered protection from that sort of action. The FSA insisted they would have only have had that protection if they had used "designated accounts", which cost more to operate.

"They say we should have known about the difference between designated and segregated funds," said one trader yesterday. "How come then no one had designated accounts - even people who have been in the market for 17 years?"

David Curling, the father of Mr Ho Park's girlfriend, said last night: "John has been advised by his lawyers not to say anything. It has come as a thunderbolt."