John Lee banned for five years over his role in the collapse of the investment bank A central figure in the Peregrine group failed to show up in the High Court yesterday to face charges over his part in the spectacular demise of the investment bank, snubbing legal action that saw him banned as a director for five years. John Eng Lee, former group treasurer and director of Peregrine Fixed Income, declined to respond to a litany of allegations against him arising from the January 1998 collapse of the group. His conduct at Peregrine showed 'a very marked degree' of incompetence, a judge ruled yesterday in his absence. Letters, summonses and related documents had been sent to Mr Lee, but he had not replied. Legal action is also outstanding against another former director, Andre Lee, but the insolvency regulator has likewise been unable to contact him. Seven years have now lapsed since the home-grown investment bank collapsed, leaving creditors more than $6 billion out of pocket. In October last year, former chairman Philip Tose and director Peter Wong Wing-cheong were stripped of directorships for four years. In May 1997, Peregrine Fixed Income agreed to lend funds to an Indonesian taxi firm, Steady Safe, which by November that year owed the investment bank US$269 million - the equivalent of 35 per cent of Peregrine's capital base. As the Asian financial crisis began to unfold, this exposure left Peregrine unable to generate enough cash to meet its liabilities. An investigation into the collapse in 2001 found John Lee to be at fault for his lack of oversight. He was responsible for group credit risk. Madam Justice Susan Kwan Shuk-hing noted yesterday that the official receiver believed Mr Lee to have 'a heavy responsibility for the collapse as a result of his failings'. Among 18 other specific allegations Mr Lee faced was the claim that he allowed the group's 1996 annual report to make seriously misleading statements about Peregrine's credit policies and practices. On top of a five-year ban, Mr Lee was also ordered to pay the official receiver's legal costs. Disqualification proceedings against Andre Lee would mark the last chapter of the Peregrine affair. He last hit the headlines during the dotcom boom when he set up an online investment bank portal, DealComposer.