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Saturday, July 3, 1999 Published at 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK


Leeson goes free

Leeson: Deported from Singapore and on his way to the UK

The rogue trader who single-handedly brought down Britain's oldest merchant bank is on his way home after being released from jail in Singapore.

Amid chaotic scenes as he was surrounded by journalists, Nick Leeson boarded a flight to London after completing just over half of his six-and-a-half-year sentence.

The 32-year-old had been convicted of illegally hiding losses of $1.5bn in his dealings for Barings Bank's Singapore office, a scandal which sent shockwaves around the financial world.

The BBC's David Willis: "Leaving the city of his downfall will come as a relief to Nick Leeson"
Leeson had been due to leave the Tanah Merah jail at about 0000 BST on Saturday but reportedly asked to delay his release to avoid journalists who had been camped outside the jail. He finally left the prison at 1505 BST.

After being released Leeson was taken into the custody of the Singapore Immigration Service to be deported and whisked through the airport before boarding the British Aiways flight. He is due in the UK early on Sunday.

There were angry scenes at Singapore airport as journalists competed for seats on the flight bringing him back to London.

But Leeson is not expected to speak to the media before making a short statement at a news conference at Heathrow shortly after his return.

Liquidators seek cash

Leeson is returning to Britain restrained by the equivalent of financial handcuffs.

The High Court in London froze his assets on the eve of his release, an order which means he cannot spend any money without giving two days' written notice to liquidators investigating the collapse of the Bank.

It also prevents him from receiving cash by selling his story to the media.

Barings' liquidators Ernst & Young applied for the order after reading that he had sold his story to the Daily Mail newspaper for £100,000.

The order specifically stops him cashing in on his autobiography, Rogue Trader, or the film adaptation, starring Ewan McGregor.

However, Leeson's lawyer says he has not ruled out the possibility of his client selling the story of his life in jail despite the court order.

In Singapore investigators have been looking into allegations, said to have come from fellow prisoners, that he has up to $2m hidden away.

A Singapore law firm says it plans to continue its investigations into the "pot of gold".

Jail, divorce and cancer

[ image: Leeson: Arrested in Frankfurt]
Leeson: Arrested in Frankfurt
Since Leeson's trading deceptions came to light, he has not only endured a jail term. His wife left him and has since remarried and he was diagnosed with cancer.

An operation 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.

Leeson is the son of a plasterer from a Watford council estate who rose to become one of the shining lights at Barings.

By 1993 he had made more than £10m - about 10% of Barings's total profit that year.

But two years later Barings' bosses uncovered £850m losses. After going on the run, Leeson was arrested in Frankfurt and later extradited to Singapore.

He has been released early for good behaviour.

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