Thursday, 18 June 2009

Peru/UK: Monterrico Metals Assets Frozen

Remember the torture that took place at Majaz in Peru? And the lamentable failure of the Peruvian justice system to bring those reponsible to book?

The story rumbles on.

On June 2nd, London law firm Leigh Day served an injunction against Monterrico Metals to freeze their assets pending a further hearing on 16 June (Tuesday). Here is the information provided by the lawyers:

1. Proceedings have been commenced in the English High Court by Leigh Day & Co on behalf of 13 Peruvians seeking compensation from British mining company Monterrico Metals PLC ("Monterrico") and its Peruvian subsidiary Rio Blanco Copper SA.

2. The claimants were tortured by the police following their protest at the Rio Blanco Mine in August 2005, situated in a remote area of Northern Peru, close to the border with Equador. All the claimants, including two women, were detained for three days, during which time they were handcuffed, blind-folded and beaten by the police. The detention and torture occurred at the Rio Blanco Mine site and also allegedly involved guards of the mine security company, Forza. As a result, the claimants suffered long term physical and psychological injuries and financial losses.

3. The Claimants allege that the Defendants must have known of the conditions in which they were being detained, but failed to take steps to prevent or end their ordeal. In March this year, Peruvian prosecutors accused the police of torture but cleared the mining company and Forza of wrongdoing. Peruvian human rights groups denounced the findings as incomplete.

4. Monterrico's principal asset is the Rio Blanco Mine and Monterrico had a close involvement in the operations at the Mine. In terms of ownership: Monterrico owns all the shares in Copper Corp Limited (Cayman Islands); Copper Corp Limited owns all the shares in Rio Blanco Copper Limited (Cayman Islands); Rio Blanco Copper Limited owns 99.98% shares in Rio Blanco Copper SA (Peru). Rio Blanco Copper SA owns the Mine.

5. On 3 June 2009, Monterrico de-listed from the AIM UK stock exchange. Because it had also relocated its corporate headquarters to Hong Kong, we were concerned that Monterrico might be planning to dispose of its assets and transfer them to Hong Kong. If that happened, then the claimants might find that their UK legal action was futile. (NB it is not alleged that the purpose of any such intention to dispose of assets was related to these claims).

6. On 2 June 2009, a freezing injunction was granted by Mr Justice Burton of the High Court. This prohibited Monterrico from disposing of assets to an extent that would leave Monterrico with less than �7.2 million.

7. The injunction application was made in the absence of Monterrico. However Monterrico and its directors have been served with the court order. A further hearing has been fixed on 16 June, when Monterrico will have an opportunity to contest the freezing injunction.

Contact: Richard Meeran, Partner, Leigh Day & Co, 020 7650 1365, 0750 7798 358

That decision was upheld during the second hearing, leaving open the possibility that the torture victims, and the family of the man who died, may be able to receive compensation through the British courts.

Juez britanico ordena congelamiento por $12 millones contra Monterrico Metals

British Mining Company Faces Injunction over Torture Allegations in Peru (Reuters AlertNet)

Cortes britanicos ordenan congelamiento de cuenta contra Monterrico Metals (La Republica)

British Court Orders Majaz Mining Company's Assets to Be Frozen for Tortures in Peru (Living in Peru)

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