WHEN THE OLD BECOMES NEWS..
Some of the events of recent times have their origins in long-going schemes to defraud the American public. That includes the current situation with metals. Not only have the Chinese, Germans, Brits and Swiss been subjected to receiving gold-plated tungsten for their gold stored in the USA, but the prices of gold have been fiddled with for some time. There have been other events, too. Read the history.
Echo Bay scandal - nobody knows a thing
By: Dorothy Kosich
Posted: '20-APR-04 22:00' GMT © Mineweb 1997-2004
RENO, NV (Mineweb.com) -- The number of parties denying any knowledge of alleged bribery of Filipino terrorist groups continues to grow in the wake of accusations by a former Echo Bay manager that his former employer supported terrorist groups with ties to Osama bin Laden.
In an article published in Sierra, the Sierra Club's official magazine, Allan Laird, former project manager at the Kingking gold and copper project in the Philippines, said he decided to go public with his allegations after his requests for an investigation were rejected by his congressman, the Department of Homeland Security, and the local U.S. Attorney.
Laird claimed that Echo Bay's security personnel at Kingking had regular meeting with insurgent commanders who were battling government forces. The property is an advanced stage gold-copper exploration project in the south-eastern part of the island of Mindanao, Philippines, east of Davao City. The property was managed by KMI, a joint venture between Echo Bay and Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI). In an interview with Mineweb, TVI President CEO Clifford M. James insisted his company was definitely the minority partner in the project, which had no knowledge or say in the day-to-day management of the operation. The area around Kingking was controlled by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is believed to have ties to Al Qaeda.
James said that while his company was well aware of the violence and corruption in the area, TVI had no knowledge of any meetings held with insurgent groups, nor of any bribes, weapons, or other objects being given by Kingking security personnel to terrorists. "Basically, we attended shareholder meetings," he added.
Laird claims the security guards were former military men with ties to other former military men in the insurgent armies. James expressed surprise as to why Laird never contacted TVI about his concerns over the alleged bribes and other reported misappropriation of funds, particularly since TVI has experience dealing with political and social conflict in the Philippines.
The Sierra Magazine also claimed that a report by Control Risks Management warned Echo Bay executives that if Echo Bay refused to pay "revolutionary taxes" (a modern version of protectionism practiced by organized crime), the communist-led New People's Army (NPA) may "launch raids against the company, to destroy equipment and to halt operations." The report also reportedly warned of attacks by MNLF, MILF, and Abu Sauuf, a radical Islamic group.
In an April 16th to the Sierra Club, Richard Fenning, COO of Control Risks Group, denied that the organization ever recommended the payment of revolutionary taxes. "In fact, we regularly inform and advise clients on how to avoid these situations. In dealing with these sorts of extortion attempts, Control Risks always advises its clients to work with the appropriate local and international authorities," he wrote.
"We regret the fact that a respected organization, such as the Sierra Club, would portray our company in an inaccurate light, particularly without contacting my office for comment," Fenning remarked, requesting that the magazine correct the misrepresentation. A risk summary provided to Mineweb by Control Risks Group said the security environment in the Philippines is poor. Poverty has produced a high crime rate. "There is easy access to weapons, and most businesses need to employ armed guards. Banditry is a problem in rural areas, though the line between insurgency and criminal banditry is frequently blurred," the summary states.
"The communist New People's Army (NPA) operates with varying levels of impunity throughout must of the country, and several Muslim separatist groups, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILK) and the Abu Sayyaf group, frequently engage the military on the southern island of Mindanao," Control Risks said, adding that these groups are active on the southern island of Mindanao and the nearby Basilian island and Sulu Archipelago.
On April 18, 2004, three men--armed with M-16 rifles and a M203 rocket launcher--attacked the Manila offices of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum (PSP). "In an environment where criminal extortion is common, and where the political climate is becoming increasing charged ahead of the 10 May presidential election, there are a number of possible culprits for the Shell attack," Control Risks noted.
A former Echo Bay executive said he was also amazed at Laird's allegations that his company would pay bribes to and work with terrorist organizations. While the manager called Laird "an honourable man", he questioned top executives had actually seen Laird's memos and reports dealing with the alleged bribes. For instance, Echo Bay's former General Counsel Terry Fish was considered an expert on the Foreign Practices Act. In fact, the executive said he was sure Fisk, former Solicitor for the Department of the Interior, would have opposed any suggestions to bribe terrorist groups.
Laird's former supervisor John Antony of Golden, Colorado, told the Rocky Mountains News that he was interviewed about Laird's claims about six months ago by Homeland Security. The former Echo Bay executive interviewed by Mineweb said he was also contacted by the department during the same time period. Antony confirmed that Laird had voiced concerns to company officials in the late 1990s. Antony said he was unaware of any payments being made to "groups like that." In fact, most parties interviewed for the story questioned why Laird waited so long before making his allegations public, and why he chose the Sierra Club as his vehicle for them, instead of contacting a New York Times or other major news organizations.
Several former Echo Bay properties were purchased in 2002 by Kinross Gold. However, Echo and TVI dropped Kingking in 1997 as uneconomic. KMI had spent $21.96 million on the project.
Kinross President and CEO Bob Buchan told Mineweb that neither his company nor any of his executives were informed of the allegations surrounding Kingking at the time the Echo Bay properties were purchased by Kinross. He added that the company is currently checking corporate files "to see if there's any light to shed on the situation."
Efforts by Mineweb to contact former Echo Bay CEOs Richard Kraus and Robert Leclerc have, thus far, proved unsuccessful.
The Rocky Mountain News reported that federal officials are investigating Laird's claims. U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, a staunch environmentalist, has sent letters to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, calling for a review of Laird's allegations. U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts., also wrote a letter calling for an investigation.
Mineweb contacted Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada, a former geologist and mining attorney, who is vice chairman for the House Natural Resources Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Mining Caucus. A spokeswoman for Gibbons said he is "extremely concerned about the allegations." However, because it involves an international incident, not pertaining to mining on U.S. public lands, the House Natural Resource Committee may not have the authority to conduct a probe of the matter.
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