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Leeson Returns Home From Singapore Prison

Crime: Trader who brought down a bank is released early, but a court retains control over his finances.

July 05, 1999|From Associated Press

LONDON — Nick Leeson, the highflying young trader who brought down Barings Bank with more than $1 billion in losses, returned home Sunday from a Singapore prison, ill, divorced, unemployed and under court order to account for every penny he spends.

Looking pale but fit after 3 1/2 years in prison and a 13-hour flight from Singapore, Leeson said he regretted what he had done.

"I'm not proud of my activities as a trader with Barings Bank in Singapore. I was foolish, and I very much regret what happened," Leeson, 32, said in a statement he read to reporters at London's Heathrow airport.

Leeson, working in the Singapore office of Britain's oldest commercial bank in the heady days of the 1990s Asian financial boom, made unauthorized futures trades that lost $1.38 billion and led to the bank's collapse in 1995.

He fled Singapore but was caught in Frankfurt, Germany, and brought back to the island republic, where he was convicted of fraudulently hiding the losses. He was sentenced to 6 1/2 years but was freed Saturday, released early for good behavior.

Leeson was diagnosed with colon cancer while in Tanah Merah prison and needs continued treatment after the surgery and chemotherapy he had in Singapore.

"I have done my time. I have taken my punishment, and now I want to get on with the job of rebuilding my life," Leeson told reporters.

Leeson was divorced from his wife, Lisa, who had stood by him through the trial and got a job as an airline attendant so she could fly to visit him. But she was disillusioned by revelations in his 1997 autobiography, "Rogue Trader." She has remarried.

Leeson told reporters he had found out who his true friends were and "received a lot of kindness from people I do not know. One man in America sent me books every month for the entire time I was in Tanah Merah."

A high court order froze Leeson's assets at the request of the liquidators of the former Barings group. He can spend as much as $7,900 per month for living costs, legal fees and health care but must give the liquidators two days' advance notice in writing of where the cash has come from and exactly how it is being spent.

Leeson's lawyer, Stephan Pollard, dismissed reports that Leeson had stashed away $3 million as "complete and utter nonsense."

Unconfirmed reports in London newspapers said Leeson had a $150,000 deal for an exclusive interview with a British tabloid. The high court judgment prevents him from profiting from the sale of his story.

Pollard said Leeson would pay his expenses out of "money that he has" but did not specify where he got it.

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