Editorial: Great Bre-Xpectations of a payout dashed

Just how slow do the wheels of justice turn in Canada? It was only a week ago that there was a resolution of the class-action lawsuits stemming from the Bre-X Minerals gold fraud, which was exposed in March 1997, and vapourized $3 billion in market capitalization in the ensuing weeks, with the market cap having peaked around $6 billion in 1996.

On May 30 at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Bre-X’s former home of Calgary, Justice Sal LoVecchio signed a settlement agreement in response to bankruptcy trustee Deloitte’s request last December that there be a dismissal on the grounds that there was little money left to pay out to defrauded investors. These former shareholders had originally sought $5 billion, with some of the first class-action suits filed in 1997.

After pondering the offer over the last six months, all the parties agreed to accept a $5.2-million payout to be divided between the investors in Alberta, Ontario, Texas and beyond who had taken part in the class-action suits.

With some 40,000 shareholders in Canada and the U.S. involved, that equates to an average of $130 per person, or just enough to pay for a short helicopter ride over a jungle.

Deloitte has been Bre-X’s bankruptcy administrator since 2002, though after the loose ends are tied up, the accounting firm should be dismissed from its duties in a few months.

“It’s sort of a sad end to a long process,” Justice LoVecchio told the Calgary Herald. “It seems anticlimactic to the whole thing.”

At this point, the average swindled Bre-X investor has only cosmic justice left to turn to, as this is clearly the end of the road in the courts.

• Some reporting by an intrepid Associated Press reporter in Mali has revealed intricate connections in the current jihadist insurgency in northwest Africa’s Sahel and Sahara regions, which has exploded in recent months with attacks on a major gas plant and a uranium mine.

Rukmini Callimachi, the AP’s West Africa bureau chief, was rifling through a building that had been occupied by al-Qaeda fighters for almost a year in newly liberated Timbuktu, Mali, where she and colleague filled garbage bags full with documents written in Arabic.

It took her months to find a trusted translator and sort through it all, but what she found among many nuggets was that the leaders of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (al Qaeda’s North African branch) sent a stern, 10-page letter in October to their wayward employee, the one-eyed Mokhtar Belmokhtar. According to the AP, “in page after scathing page, they described how he didn’t answer his phone when they called, failed to turn in his expense reports, ignored meetings and refused time and again to carry out orders.”

Indeed, Belmokhtar looks to have stepped-up his jihadist activities after this dressing-down from his superiors, finally cutting ties with AQIM and setting up his own splinter group that carried out spectacular assaults on the BP-operated gas plant in eastern Algeria and the more recent simultaneous bombings and attacks on the army barracks at Agadez, Niger, and the nearby Areva-operated Somair uranium mine. The three attacks left 101 dead.

According to the AP, the AQIM leadership’s biggest beef among many with Belmokhtar was the amount of money raised by the 2008 kidnapping of Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler and a colleague in Niger, which last four months. They complain he hastily struck a side deal to release the pair for a “most meagre price” of €700,000, presumably because they could have gotten perhaps double that amount.

Fowler always said he didn’t know if a ransom was paid, and the Canadian government — even last week — has consistently stated that it doesn’t pay ransom money.

Worse, the letter found by the AP seems to confirm that AQIM was using ransom money paid by European governments to fund attacks against Western assets and interests.



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