The Sunday Times comenteaza afacerea Rosia Montana

Sâmbătă, 4 iunie 2005, 0:00

Regal boss named in Romanian organised-crime inquiry
REGAL PETROLEUM, the AIM-listed oil company reeling after a run of bad news about the quality of its assets, is facing a fresh crisis. It has emerged that chairman Frank Timis is under investigation by prosecutors attached to Romania’s supreme court, the High Court of Cassation and Justice, as part of the country’s crackdown on organised crime and drugs.

Last week Regal’s share price closed at 70½p, down from a high of 510p just a few weeks ago. The company was forced to slash estimates of its recoverable oil reserves in Greece by 70% while announcing a large increase in losses to $13.7m (£7.5m).

A month ago, Timis, who has two heroin convictions, was forced to admit that the Greek field he had said could be holding up to a billion barrels of oil was probably worthless. That came just weeks after Regal had tapped investors for £45m.

Documents seen by The Sunday Times show there is a continuing investigation into Timis’s business activities in Romania, where Regal has its main gas interests. Romania is cracking down on corruption ahead of its bid to join the European Union in 2007. Romania’s Ministry for Public Affairs confirmed the investigation.

Timis is the subject of further inquiries under way in the Military Court of Appeal in Bucharest and in the regional Court of Appeal in Alba-Iulia.

The existence of the investigations into Timis’s activities was acknowledged in response to a freedom-of-information request submitted by Alburnus Maior, the Romanian lobby group campaigning to stop a mine development at Rosia Montana. This project, owned by a Canadian company called Gabriel Resources, was responsible for establishing Timis’s reputation as a successful mining entrepreneur.

Separately, in a confidential CV from 2004 seen by The Sunday Times, Timis names the British government as a "strategic shareholder" in another of his companies called the Africa Diamond Corporation. Timis said the company, which has extensive assets in Sierra Leone, "may currently sustain a valuation of over $750m".

Africa Diamond Corporation is understood to be the forerunner of the recently listed Sierra Leone Diamond Company in which Timis owns a large stake.

A spokesman for the Department for International Development told The Sunday Times on Friday that it had not heard of the company.

Sierra Leone Diamond Company is preparing to move out of the London offices it shares with Regal and European Goldfields. Mike Jones of Canaccord Capital Europe, the company’s adviser said: "The company is making all the appropriate steps to limit the fall-out of any comparisons with Regal. The company is moving offices and restructuring the board."

The unusual CV gives a colourful account of Timis’s life and career. "The early beginnings were not easy for Frank, and his story of a desperate flight into the unknown and triumphant return takes some beating," it says — a reference to his escape from Ceaucescu’s Romania at the age of 16.

"These days Frank is happy to wave the flag for the country in which he was born," the CV continues, citing a large number of charitable activities, including providing balls and transport to the Rosia Montana football team, paying for the fireworks display on Romanian National Day, and financing the building of the St Vasile monastery in Baia Borsa, "the land of his ancestors". Timis’s first name is Vasile.

The CV also boasts Timis is "one of the most successful entrepreneurial dealings (sic) with governments in Australia, Canada, West Africa and South East Europe" and that "his business contacts (in Romania) provide a valuable entrée to securing additional gas sales contracts and gaining further development opportunities for Regal Petroleum".

Timis also claims to have helped the Romanian Democratic party write new mining laws in the late 1990s — laws of which he is one of the principal beneficiaries.

He claims to be "an important and active supporter of Romanian integration into Nato and the European community. He was one of the main financial sponsors of the Nato reunion in Bucharest in 2002".

Timis did not respond to a request for comment.
by Paul Durman and Louise Armitstead
The Sunday Times

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