News > International
Rogue trader to walk free
July 2, 1999: 9:51 a.m. ET

An older, balder Nick Leeson emerges from Singapore jail into unknown future
graphic graphic
LONDON (CNNfn) - Nick Leeson, the rogue trader whose sleight-of-hand with financial derivatives resulted in the most notorious disappearing act in the history of British merchant banking, will emerge from a Singapore jail cell Saturday into a new, uncertain life of freedom.
     But the Leeson who flies into London's Heathrow airport this weekend will be a markedly different person, his lawyers insist, from the wayward 28-year-old trader who sent Barings -- Britain's oldest merchant bank -- crashing under a $1.4 billion sea of debt.
     Leeson was charged with forgeries and misrepresentations made to conceal unauthorized deals while trading on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange, or SIMEX. He was accused of defrauding Barings Futures Singapore, cheating SIMEX and forging documents.
Haji-Ioannou and easyJet pic

Leeson transferred in Singapore

     Singapore prison authorities commuted Leeson's six-and-a-half-year sentence for fraud and cheating after he was diagnosed with colon cancer in August and given a 30 percent chance of dying within the next three years. Prison authorities said Thursday follow-up tests showed the cancer was in complete remission.
     "Everyone who sees him on Sunday will recognize a change in him," Leeson's lawyer, Stephen Pollard, told reporters in Singapore Friday.
     "His hair is very short, and people will see that he has aged quite considerably through his years in prison."
     Pollard said the former stock trader would hold a brief news conference in London after his arrival on July 4. His future plans are not known, although it's doubtful he will be able to pick up his career in finance.
     "He could apply [for securities registration] like anyone else," said a U.K. regulator. "Every case is considered on its own merit." Leeson was never registered with the U.K. regulatory authorities, so he hasn't violated any London rules.
     But while Leeson's backers scramble to promote their image of a weakened man chastened by his time behind bars, scores of skeptics back home in Britain are refusing to take the bait.
     London's boisterous tabloid press was awash this week in headlines asserting that the purportedly impoverished Leeson has a secret stash of cash awaiting him in Britain. Pollard dismissed such reports indignantly, saying that "no one who knows anything about this seriously believes that there is money they've not been able to trace."
     Reports that Leeson has agreed to accept 100,000 pounds ($160,000) from a tabloid, the Daily Mail, have further infuriated Britons who cite British press laws barring compensation to "criminals" in return for exclusive stories about their crimes.
Leeson, the Phantom Menace?

     The "free" world to which Leeson returns will be surreal in other ways as well.
     The rogue trader, the man, will have to reckon with "Rogue Trader," the movie, whose premiere in London on June 21 inauspiciously preceded Leeson's release by just over a week. In the movie, actors Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel star as the celluloid incarnations of Leeson and his wife, Lisa. McGregor also plays the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the "Phantom Menace," while Friel is cuurently starring in "Closer" on Broadway.
     Even those hoping to celebrate Leeson's early release with a little British-style good cheer met adversity.
     Harry's bar in Singapore held a "Flight to Freedom" party Friday in honor of the stock trader who once made the bar his favorite watering hole. But the festivities were considerably dampened by the composition of the guest list.
     "We've got more reporters than customers," Margaret Woodward, the general manager of Harry's Bar, told reporters Friday in Singapore. "They tend to put people off coming into the bar."Back to top
     -- from staff and wire reports