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Saturday, July 3, 1999 Published at 00:13 GMT 01:13 UK

Business: The Company File

Leeson gets early release

What will the future hold for the man who broke the bank?

Nick Leeson is released from jail in Singapore early on Saturday, having served two-thirds of his six-and-a-half year term for the gross financial misrepresentation which brought down Barings, Britain's oldest merchant bank.

David Willis in Singapore: Asia will never forget this rogue trader
Leeson, who is 32, is being released early for good behaviour and will fly immediately to London. But his future is uncertain.

According to the Saturday edition of the Times newspaper, a court has frozen Leeson's worldwide assets, after he reportedly sold his story to a tabloid newspaper.

The Times said Leeson is expected to be served with court papers when he arrives in London on Sunday.

According to the newspaper, the court order requires Leeson to disclose his assets or risk going back to prison.

Barings liquidators have said they will pursue claims by fellow prisoners that he has boasted of having a "stash" of hidden money.

Since Leeson's trading deceptions came to light, he has not only endured a term in Singapore's notorious Changi jail. His wife left has him and remarried, and he has suffered cancer of the colon.

[ image: Leeson in Singapore: said to be now a shadow of his former self]
Leeson in Singapore: said to be now a shadow of his former self
An operation in Singapore to remove a malignant tumour and part of his large intestine was successful, but there remains a 30% chance of the cancer recurring within five years.

While he was in jail his medical care was paid for by the Singapore government, but once back in Britain he could have to finance lengthy expensive treatment himself.

As he returns home, the film of his life - Rogue Trader starring Ewan McGregor - is being screened widely and he is said to have sold the story of his time in jail to a newspaper for a six-figure sum.

Sarah Coburn recaps the events that brought down Barings Bank
None of this publicity will help him in his attempts to start a new life quietly, away from the attentions of those abhorred by his past actions.

Few of his former colleagues at Barings are likely to forgive his almost single-handed destruction of one of the world's proudest institutions, nor will investors who lost heavily.

Speculative disaster

The plasterer's son from Watford bankrupted Barings - the merchant bank that financed the Napoleonic wars - by speculating heavily on the Japanese markets.

[ image: Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel: played Nick and Lisa in the film
Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel: played Nick and Lisa in the film "Rogue Trader"
Incurring heavy losses, he bought more contracts in the hope that the tide would turn and bale him out. It was a long time before the fraud came to light because, unaccountably, he was allowed to supervise his own deals by his bosses in London.

The deception began to emerge in February 1995, when Leeson and his wife, Lisa, fled from Singapore. They flew to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur before travelling on to a luxury beach resort in Borneo.

They were arrested shortly afterwards in Germany as they tried to return to the UK, and Leeson was charged.

[ image: Lisa: her life has moved on]
Lisa: her life has moved on
In London, talks aimed at saving Barings failed and the Dutch bank, Internationale Nederlanden Groep (ING), bought the company for a nominal £1, taking on its £860m losses. Most of the 4,000 staff retained their jobs.

When Leeson was jailed in Singapore on two counts of financial misrepresentation, he was castigated for his deception. But an inquiry into how Barings had been brought down was also critical of his bosses in London for not adequately supervising his trading operations.

After cancer surgery, Leeson is in remission. Doctors have given him a 70% chance of surviving more than five years, but he has been reduced to a ghost of his former self. His weight plummeted and most of his hair fell out during chemotherapy treatment.

[ image: Leeson was moved from Changi jail to Tanah Merah after surgery for cancer]
Leeson was moved from Changi jail to Tanah Merah after surgery for cancer
Edward Whitley, who wrote the biography, Rogue Trader, on which the film was based, has said Leeson has suffered enough and should now be allowed to make some money from selling his account of life in jail.

"He's lost his health, he's lost his wife, he comes back to extremely difficult prospects and I think he should sell his story."

But Leeson will continue to be dogged by questions over whether he does have a secret "stash", and his job prospects are far from rosy.

On his return to London, Leeson is to begin his new life with a news conference early on Sunday at a hotel near Heathrow. He is unlikely to receive much of a welcome.

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The Company File Contents

Relevant Stories

02 Jul 99†|†The Economy
The double life of Leeson

01 Jul 99†|†Asia-Pacific
Leeson faces quiz over cash

30 Jun 99†|†UK
Tabloid may escape Leeson censure

22 Jun 99†|†The Economy
How Leeson broke the bank

22 Jun 99†|†The Economy
Leeson scandal 'could happen again'

21 Jun 99†|†UK
Disgraced trader Leeson 'sells story'

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