De Guzman Lives? Singapore Report Cites Cheque from Fallen Bre-X Geologist

May 24, 2005 07:00 PM

TORONTO (CP) -- A widow of Michael de Guzman, said to have died in 1997 by jumping or being pushed from a helicopter into an Indonesian jungle, has told a Singapore newspaper the Filipino geologist at the centre of the Bre-X scam may be alive.

Genie de Guzman says she received $25,000 US from de Guzman about three months ago, drawn on a Citibank branch in Brazil, the Straits Times reported.

''Sometimes I think I'm in a movie,'' Genie de Guzman, 42, told the newspaper. ''There has never been any closure. I never believed he was dead.''

The Straits Times said Genie de Guzman has not returned the newspaper's calls since the interview and did not provide the bank document detailing the Brazilian transaction.

Bre-X Minerals Ltd. collapsed in May 1997, six weeks after de Guzman's fateful helicopter trip, when a technical report confirmed that what was thought to be a massive gold deposit called Busang was a $6-billion hoax.

Ore samples had been faked by salting them with outside gold, including gold from rivers and jewelry shavings.

Rumours that de Guzman is still alive have never died since March 19, 1997, when he boarded a helicopter in Borneo after being called to explain inconsistencies in drill cores from the Bre-X Minerals Inc. project, said to be the largest gold deposit in the world.

The helicopter's pilot and mechanic said the machine was flying at about 200 metres when there was a bump and a rush of air, and when the mechanic looked back a door was open and de Guzman, 41 years old at the time, was gone.

The body that was recovered from the dense jungle was described as being in an advanced state of decomposition and had been extensively consumed by insects and wild swine.

Some of De Guzman's relatives -- he apparently had multiple spouses -- raised questions from the start about the corpse's identity, citing faulty fingerprint and dental analysis.

And many people in the mining industry suspect that de Guzman, the key scapegoat in the world's largest mining scam, faked his death to ensure the investigation would hit a dead end.

Bre-X shares, which had risen from pennies to over $280 on a split-adjusted basis, collapsed so catastrophically when the hoax was confirmed that they took the Toronto Stock Exchange computer down with them.

This past March, eight years after the scandal broke, Bre-X chief geologist John Felderhof came from his home in the Cayman Islands to Toronto, where he has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of insider trading and misleading investors.

The company's chief executive officer, David Walsh, died in June 1998 at age 52 of an apparent brain aneurysm.

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