The man who single-handedly brought down one of the biggest banks in the 1990s, after gambling away millions on unauthorised and speculative trading, is now in Cape Town on a charity mission.
It has been 14 years since Briton Nick Leeson was released from prison, but his name is still bandied about whenever there is a financial scandal.
Dubbed by many as the “original rogue trader”, Leeson rose to infamy after it emerged that he had crippled Barings Bank in just three years.
In 1995, Leeson – then a 27-year-old trader in Singapore working for the centuries-old bank – lost millions after a series of speculative and unsuccessful investments that he hid using the bank’s “error” account.
In February he left a note reading “I’m sorry” before fleeing the country. Losses eventually amounted to $1.4 billion and saw Barings Bank file for insolvency later that year. Leeson was nabbed for fraud and spent four years in a gang-ridden Singapore jail where he was surrounded by arms dealers, sex offenders and drug dealers.
It was an experience he could not help but compare with the conditions he was shown on Robben Island, which he visited on Monday.
His original sentence was six years, but he was released early after he developed colon cancer. Now, 14 years later, after a long battle with cancer, the 46-year-old has come to terms with what he did.
He has written a book, been the subject of a 1990s movie and now tours the world telling his story and relating it back to today’s financial climate.
“I spent years living with remorse, so when I tell my story it’s not a dreary account of what happened. I approach it with a sense of humour.”
Leeson is no stranger to South Africa, and has regularly visited the country for conferences.
But tonight he will also be supporting a local charity event called FeedSA. He hopes to raise funds for Christmas hampers which will help struggling families through the holiday season. - The Cape Argus