January, 06:- Ten years after Nick Leeson broke Barings Bank, Ernst & Young investigators have disclosed that numerous bounty hunters claimed that they had found the bank’s lost millions.
David Sherwin, Ernst & Young partner in the global investigations and disputes advisory unit, said that he couldn’t disclose details of money recovery for confidential reasons. Moreover, since litigation revolving around the Barings collapse ended about a year ago, the division’s recovery efforts have come to an end.
Recalling what happened after Leeson’s frauds caused Barings Bank to collapse in February 1995 with losses of £860 million (S$2.67 billion), Mr Sherwin said that the division had received “a number of calls from bounty hunters”. They asked for commissions of 5 to 15 per cent on any recovered money. Despite continual denials from Leeson, there have been persistent rumours that he siphoned off millions of dollars from his trading. Once such lead was in New York where bounty hunters claimed they knew the whereabouts of US$100 million, but that claim came to naught.
“We had to do our best to examine claims around the world so that we could recover money for the liquidator and creditors,” said Mr Sherwin. There were big hitters in the Caribbean who had apparently met Leeson, for example. When bounty hunters claimed commissions, Ernst & Young investigators demanded “to see the colour of the notes” before conducting any negotiations. For confidentiality reasons, Mr Sherwin couldn’t disclose whether some bounty hunters had found any money.
A former trader at ING recalled that the bank’s executives were furious when a US$30 million recovery was disclosed to the press inadvertently. ING, which bought the bankrupt bank for £1 (S$3.10) in March 1995, was trying to trace electronic bank transfers that Leeson had made. Publication of the recovery would have alerted anyone involved in alleged money laundering, the trader recalls.
Leeson, who now earns his money on the speaking circuit and plays “celebrity poker” on a website, has admitted that he defrauded Barings. But he has insisted that he was acting alone, and had not hidden any money. Mr Sherwin of Ernst & Young said that he could neither comment on allegations that Leeson has a hidden hoard nor that friends of his were acting in concert
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