by Andy Higginbottom (*)
At first sight the struggle of the Amadiba community in Pondoland, on South Africa’s Eastern Cape Wild Coast, to stop Australian company MRC mining on their land has nothing to do with Graham Edwards, chief executive of property management company Telereal Trillium who works out of offices at 140 London Wall.
But following the money to a front company and investment trust reveals that Edwards is indeed not only the biggest beneficiary of MRC shareholdings, but has major interests in several other mining companies.
Mineral Resources Limited (MRC) has applied to mine a 22 kilometre coastal strip for titanium. The resistance of the Amadiba community is understandable, they don’t want their beautiful Xolobeni sand dunes ruined, they don’t want the toxic pollution that can be seen at similar mining operations, and they don’t want the predictable social problems associated with mining.
MRC’s project has engendered division in the community. The activities of the small pro-mining faction, and its attempts to usurp community democracy, is detailed in a full length documentary Shore Break. Shore Break reports that two community members who spoke out against the mine were killed. Since that film, Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) chair Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Radebe was assassinated on 22 March. MRC’s chief executive Mark Carruso denies responsibility for these killings.
The question addressed by this article is the link between this conflict and investors in the City of London.
We follow the money trail starting with MRC’s annual report for 2015, which has just been released in anticipation of the company’s AGM in Western Australian on 25 May. Although Graham Edwards’ name does not appear in the report, a little probing reveals that he effectively owns 23.6%, and possibly even more. Three of the largest investors are blind nominee accounts held by banks – Citicorp (16.7%), JP Morgan (14.5%) and HSBC (10.1%) – on behalf of unnamed nominees.
We start with the link to Edwards through Au Mining. Au Mining Limited is MRC’s biggest single shareholder, owning nearly 96 million of its shares that carry an aggregate profit dividend of nearly a million Australian dollars. Au Mining is a private company whose address is given as Wellington, New Zealand, but which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. Since it was incorporated in 2005, Au Mining’s company secretary has been Guy Walker. Walker is on the MRC board as a ‘Senior Independent Non-Executive Director’. MRC’s 2015 annual report profiles Walker’s 20 years’ experience in financial markets, highlighting his ‘extensive experience in capital raising through both traditional banks and alternative lenders’. Walker is clearly on MRC’s board to represent Au Mining’s interest. But who in turn owns Au Mining is not immediately apparent from the New Zealand company’s records.
However, according to a document lodged with the Australian stock exchange, it is one Graham Edwards who is the sole director and beneficial owner of Au Mining. The connection between New Zealander Walker and Edwards goes much further. Walker serves as an Advisor to D & A Income Limited, which is an investment trust company registered in Jersey, one of the UK’s very own tax havens. D & A’s annual returns reveal only that its shares are held in trust by two accounts at the HSBC bank.
Exactly the kind of blind trust that would show up as an HSBC nominee on shareholder records like MRC’s.
D & A Income’s beneficiaries are in fact Graham Edwards and his family. The trust formed a consortium in 2012 with DMCI Holdings to make a £49.8 million joint offer cash bid for UK listed nickel mining company ENK. ENK’s major asset is the Acoje project in the Philippines. DMCI reports that its partner D & A is, “an investment company, owned by a trust of which the principal beneficiary is Graham Edwards, chief executive of Telereal Trillium, one of the UK’s largest property companies.”
Once the core association between D&A Income and Au Mining is identified, an international web of mining and other investments emerges, often with Walker acting as the point man for Edwards who provides the big funds.
In 2012 Walker was noted as a director of Australian company Navigation Resources Limited, which reported a loan and subsequent working capital of A$19 million, received from Au Mining and its associate D&A Income, who between them owned 19.8% of Navigation.
Another example, Bacanora Minerals Limited, is registered in Calgary, Alberta, where the company held its last annual meeting on 12 June 2015. Bacanora runs two mining projects in North Mexico. The company’s largest shareholding (17.7%) is held by Igneous Capital Limited, ‘a private corporation that is incorporated under the laws of the British Virgin Islands and is controlled by Graham Edwards’, according to Bacanora’s AGM notice. The document continues, ‘Mr. Guy Walker, a current director of the Corporation, serves as Corporate Secretary of Igneous Capital Limited. Graham Edwards is the ultimate beneficial owner of Igneous. Mr. Edwards is also one of the potential beneficiaries of a trust that owns D&A Income Limited, which owns 5,303,030 Common Shares, representing 6.3% ‘. Through his front companies and association with Walker, Edwards owns 24.0% of Bacanora.
Guy Walker has given up his directorships of ENK, Navigator Resources and Bacanora, but the pattern continues. Walker still sits on the board of REG Metals Exploration plc, a gold mining company, whose projects are also in the Philippines. Through Jersey based Runruno Holdings Limited, Graham Edwards owns 19.0% of REG’s issued share capital.
In another direct link to Edwards, D&A Income owns 6.8% of highly profitable UK registered company Central Asia Metals Plc , with copper mine assets in Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Chile. Walker is Company Secretary for Montoya Investments, a company which is again owned by Graham Edwards, and bought a 5.6% stake in Central Asia Metals.
The Edwards – Walker connection goes one step further. Edwards’ day job as CEO of Telereal Trillium should not be forgotten. Whilst we cannot here go into this company’s complex financial engineering based on privatisation and outsourcing, it is worth noting that Guy Walker was group treasurer of the William Pears group of companies that owns a huge property portfolio. The Pears group owns the Telereal part of Telereal Trillium. The liquid assets of the Pears group are managed by Talisman Asset Management, where Walker worked as a fund manager and chief operating officer.
The money trail has led from South Africa, through investment vehicles in former white dominions Australia, New Zealand and Canada, back to the City of London.
(*) Associate Professor, Kingston University email email@example.com
There will be a picket of Teleareal Trillium’s London offices on Thursday 5 May, 12.30 to 2.30pm. See https://www.facebook.com/events/106341719775315/.