MAC: Mines and Communities

London Calling! July 21 2004

Published by MAC on 2004-07-21

London Calling! July 21 2004

Eggs on Faces

If there's one good reason to read Mineweb it's to catch occasional commentary from John Helmer on the shenanigans of the Russian oligarchs.

Only two weeks ago London Calling had reasons to be grateful for Helmer's reporting on Viktorr Vekselberg, whose Renova group is involved with London's Fleming Family & Partners in promoting the interests of SUAL, Russia's number two aluminium company. This is the outfit which Brian Gilbertson, recently debunked from Vedanta, is expected to join soon, with a fifty million dollar inducement.

London Calling (often one ahead of Mineweb it must be admitted) referred then to the Curious Case of the Faberge eggs, originally filched from Russia, and which were being brought back by Vekselberg from exile in the US as a token of his appreciation to the Russian peoples whom he has mercilessly ripped off for some years.. But, as Helmer points out, Vekselberg has no intention of giving back the eggs to those who have suffered from his depredations at home. They will merely be waved in front of gaunt Russian eyes as a token of his largesse, then whisked to England and other staging posts where he thinks the public is more easily seduced by circuses than bread.

The specific rip-offs, of which Vekselberg is now being re-accused, concern the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) which did a lucrative deal with BP last year, from which three Russian mafia - whoops! Big Business Men - made a killing, wifh Veksleberg the largest beneficiary.

It's now possible (but don't hold your breath) that Viktor will be soon sued by a Canadian oil company, Norex, and a number of former investors in oil interests taken over by Vekselberg, with the charge sheet including bribery,corruption and the use of a veritable paper chase of intermediaries to launder proceeds from his illegal seizure of Russian assets.

Ironically, back in 1998, one of the companies accusing TNK of arbitrarily busting its contracts with Russian operators in the region was none other than Ivanhoe Energy, Robert Friedland's oil exploitation arm. But Viktor made an undisclosed pay-off to Friedland, and Toxic Bob hasn't rocked the TNK boat since.

Of course it would be outrageous to suggest that the deal was anything more than Normal Business Practice between men of the same ilk Or that Friedland was given a hearty handshake to keep shtum about TNK's more dubious dealings.

Meanwhile, Brian Gilbertson - as akin to Friedland as an alligator to a hawk - must be having second, if not third, thoughts, about crafting omelettes with the redoubtable head of SUAL and TKN.

Except that, last week, the prime minister of the country in which the ex-head of BHPBilliton has found such a congenial home, apparently got away with responsibility for conjuring "evidence" on which an entire country was thrust into war and thousands were needlessly maimed and killed.

In comparison Brian may consider it a walkover covering for the likes of Viktor Vekselberg.

[Sources: Mineweb 15/7/2004 - article can be linked to here; London Calling 9th July 2004]

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