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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fugitive Trader Detained in Germany

FRANKFURT -- The 28-year-old financial whiz-kid linked to the collapse of Britain's oldest merchant bank was detained at Frankfurt's airport Thursday, grabbed by German authorities after an international manhunt.


Nick Leeson, the Singapore-based high-flier accused of making trading losses of $900 million that led to the collapse last weekend of the 233-year-old investment bank Barings, sat awaiting an international arrest warrant from Singapore.


Leeson, whose risky gambles on Japanese stock-index contracts were alleged to have wiped out Barings' net worth, was traveling in his own name with his wife Lisa on a Royal Brunei Airlines flight from Asia that landed at 6:28 a.m. local time.


Singapore tipped Germany off that he could be on his way.


Leeson did not hide his identity from five German border guards who stood on the tarmac with photos of him and checked passengers leaving the airliner, said Klaus Severin, head of the border guard unit at the airport.


Frankfurt prosecutor Hans-Hermann Eckert said that once the international arrest warrant arrived Leeson would be presented to a Frankfurt judge, who would then decide whether to place him in custody pending examination of any extradition request.


Details of any charges against him were not yet known.


"This could take months ... unless Leeson agrees to an extradition," Eckert said. Leeson immediately sent for a lawyer, who was traveling up from Munich.


Severin said Leeson indicated he had intended to travel to London. But Severin added that neither he nor his wife appeared to have a ticket to fly to Britain.


He said Leeson remained calm and spoke to British consular officials. "He seemed to be a normal person," Severin added.


Eckert said he expected British and Singapore authorities to agree on where Leeson should be extradited.


He added that Britain could be seen as a priority, because the bank was based in London, but noted that Leeson's transactions were conducted in Singapore.


"For reasons of practicality it could be decided to extradite Leeson to Singapore," Eckert said.


Despite a statement by Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department that it had asked Germany to extradite Leeson, Eckert said prosecutors were still awaiting a formal request.


He added there had been no request from London.


Severin said there was little indication why Leeson had traveled openly to Frankfurt, using his real name and almost certain to be caught.


He and his wife were seen leaving their Singapore home last Thursday. They went to Kuala Lumpur, where they spent a night, and then holed up in an exclusive Malaysian beach resort as police searched for them throughout Asia.


Administrators were sent in on Sunday after Barings stunned banking regulators by revealing that its capital had been wiped out by one dealer's trades.


Bank sources in London said it was increasingly clear that the bank would be broken up in the event of a sale.


Potential purchasers of parts of Barings started to show interest Wednesday, while the administrators tried to stem losses estimated at up to $900 million.