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14th December 2018

Sierra Leone: London Court Slams $3.7M on Dubious Australian Mining Magnate!

By a press release (03/11/18)

Australian mining magnate Frank Timis, one of the richest business men in London, has been fined 3.7 million US dollars by a London court.

 

The mining millionaire is involved in another ongoing court case in which the accounting firm PwC is being chased for £75 million by an aggrieved consultancy group, relating to the sale of a mine in Sierra Leone to Timis Mining by the administrators of failed British listed explorer London Mining. (Photo: Frank Timis welcomed by former Sierra Leone Vice President Solomon Berewa).

Another recent case has involved Timis Mining locking legal horns with commodity trader Gerald Metals over the US$50 million ($70 million) financing of the Sierra Leone operation.

The colourful career of controversial Romanian-Australian mining tycoon Frank Timis has taken another twist, with a London appeals court upholding a £2 million ($3.7 million) fine against him over the ousting of the whistle-blowing CEO of his Perth-based company International Petroleum.

The pay-out was awarded recently to the former International Petroleum chief Alexander Osipov, who was dismissed in October 2014, within months of his appointment, after he reported irregularities in the firm's Niger operations.

In an unusual legal step, the judge confirmed that Mr. Timis and Perth-based mining entrepreneur Tony Sage, the chairman of International Petroleum, were personally liable for the compensation bill, rather than awarding the unfair dismissal claim against the company itself.

International Petroleum Ltd (IPL) is listed on the NSX but was suspended in March 2013 amid difficulties in meeting its reporting obligations. The suspension has continued due to this London court case and a separate four-year legal battle with the Kazakhstan government over the revocation of IPL's exploration rights there.

International Petroleum chairman Tony Sage was held jointly liable for Alexander Osipov's dismissal as CEO. London-based Mr. Timis is IPL's largest individual shareholder and was last on the Financial Review Rich List in 2014, with wealth of $295 million, making him one of the richest Australians in London. And he is never far from a courtroom or a controversial story.

Mr. Timis was also fined £600,000 in 2007 for misleading investors in his British-listed company Regal, after the firm reported a large oil discovery in 2005 that turned out to be uncommercial. Investment bank Renaissance Capital separately sued his company African Minerals for £25 million in 2012, saying they had not been paid for fundraising work.

In 2010, the ASX suspended International Petroleum after it moved to buy two of Mr Timis' other companies, citing potential problems with the merged company's disclosure obligations. Mr. Timis and Mr. Sage successfully knocked the suspension over at the ASX tribunal, but the fight helped prompt their shift to the NSX. To top it all, Mr. Timis also has two convictions for heroin possession in Perth dating back to the early 1990s.

But he's also known for his philanthropy, both in Africa and Britain. African media reports say he is funding the rebuilding of a 1400 kilometre railway between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. He also reportedly sponsors African Christians and Muslims to undertake pilgrimages to the Middle East and funds programs to help street children. In Britain it is claimed he donates to medical veterans' charities and in Romania he funds monasteries and convents.

The current appeal revolved around Mr. Timis' and Mr. Sage's personal liability for the sacking. Earlier employment tribunal judgments had found that Mr. Timis told Mr Sage to sack Mr. Osipov because of the concerns the CEO had raised about the company's operations in Niger. Mr. Timis wrote an email to Mr. Sage, but sent it accidentally to Mr. Osipov, in which he said "release Alex from his job and appoint Anya [Belogortseva, the current CEO] to manage any future deals. This is currently very costly and is causing many obstacles".

Mr. Osipov alleged that there were irregularities in the process IPL was using to evaluate some of its assets in Niger, and also raised concerns about the lack of a full tendering process for surveying work on the firm's sites there. Mr. Sage subsequently wrote to Mr. Osipov and said his conduct had "undermined the sale of the Niger assets" and his employment was terminated with immediate effect.

Mr. Timis claimed that Mr. Osipov's allegations were unsubstantiated, that he had demonstrated weakness as an executive in his dealings with the Niger government, and that he had put his own interests above the company. But one of the earlier tribunal rulings found Mr. Timis' evidence "completely confused and contradictory".

Mr. Osipov had claimed, and the earlier tribunal rulings accepted, that he had "experienced pressure and inappropriate interference in his role and function" as CEO. He claimed his whistleblowing had led to him being excluded from decision-making in Niger, and that a number of IPL associates had held secret meetings with the Niger government while he was still CEO. The company has since quit Niger, following security tension on the Niger-Nigeria border in 2016.

Friday's judgment confirmed that the two International Petroleum executives would have to foot the bill. But it seems Mr. Timis and Mr Sage shouldn't feel too out of pocket: the judge noted they had directors' insurance that would probably cover the full amount of the claim.

International Petroleum could not be reached for comment. In its most recent market update, dated August 15, Mr. Sage used the company's standard formulation regarding the court cases and the suspension. It said that while IPL awaited the outcome of the Kazakh and London litigation, "the company continues to look at and evaluate new potential oil and gas exploration and production opportunities in Europe, CIS, Africa and Asia, and will apply to the NSX with request that trading resume in due course".

Courtesy: The Calabash Newspaper

TRIBUTE: ALPHA SHAW


1958 -1980

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