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The geologist who made millions by selling Bre-X stock before the company became embroiled in one of the biggest mining frauds in history says he is penniless but happy growing vegetables in the Philippines.
“Rich and poor,” shrugs John Felderhof, “as long as I can put food on the table.” Felderhof, 71, is in Toronto this week for what he calls the bizarre experience of “defending my defence lawyer,” Joseph Groia.
Four years ago, with Groia as his counsel, an Ontario Court judge acquitted Felderhof, who had been Bre-X Mineral’s vice-chairman in charge of exploration, of illegal insider trading and issuing false press releases after a trial that stretched over seven years.
The Law Society of Upper Canada, which regulates lawyers in Ontario, alleges Groia, 56, committed professional misconduct by failing to conduct himself in a civil manner while acting as Felderhof’s counsel.
Felderhof, meanwhile, still owes Groia $2 million in legal fees. “I have no money left,” he told the three-person disciplinary hearing Tuesday. He stopped being able to pay his legal bills in October 2005, but Groia “carried on” defending him until the trial ended.
Fifteen years ago, in 1996, Felderhof sold his soaring Bre-X stock for $40 million. The world then still believed a massive gold reserve existed in the Calgary company’s Indonesian exploration project.
But $15 million dollars in legal fees and a 2001 divorce settlement have left him broke, though each of his three children have $1 million set aside in a trust, Felderhof explained outside the Osgoode Hall hearing room. He still faces a class-action suit in Ontario
In March of 1997, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada honoured Felderhof as Man of the Year. But then the news broke that someone had tampered with the Indonesian drilling samples — wiping out dreams of gold riches and billions of share value for which no one has ever been held responsible.
By then, Felderhof owned properties in the Cayman Islands and the United States. His assets were frozen and targeted by more than a dozen lawsuits.
Today, he lives “very simply.” Six years ago he moved to the Philippines where he, his Filipino wife and her four children live in a small village and run a convenience store and restaurant where they serve breakfast and lunch. “Five tables on the veranda,” he says.
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