LONDON. — Arrest warrants have been issued by the Zimbabwean authorities for two former bosses of a London-listed mining company over an alleged fraud that has triggered a global manhunt.
Yat Hoi Ning and Yim Kwan, the former chief executive and former finance director respectively of ASA Resource Group, have been missing for several months. One of ASA’s own directors slammed the UK authorities for failing to investigate a possible large-scale “removal of value”.
The company, which is listed on the AIM market in London, has a Zimbabwean gold mine as its main asset. It also has copper mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It revealed in April that $4,3 million (£3,2 million) had gone missing and fired Ning and Kwan.
The firm, which went into administration in July, has been unable to contact Ning since. In a further twist, administrators at Duff & Phelps fear Ning could be linked to a £36 million takeover bid for ASA by a firm controlled by a Chinese copper billionaire. Some investors fear the takeover could lead to them being short-changed.
The arrest warrants centre on $2,76 million which was transferred out of the bank account of one of ASA’s subsidiaries. The affair is just the latest debacle to hit AIM, the UK’s junior stock market. It has suffered a string of scandals, including several involving Chinese companies.
Although the issues are not confined to Chinese firms, the London Stock Exchange issued a warning two years ago. It told the stockbroking firms that oversee companies on AIM to make sure their Chinese clients’ corporate governance standards were up to scratch.
ASA’s administrator, Duff & Phelps, says there are possible links between Ning and a firm called Rich Pro Investments, owned by billionaire Feng Hailiang. They point to a number of transactions between the pair, including a large loan to Ning. In addition, Hailang owns a copper project in the DRC, situated next to ASA’s operation.
Some shareholders are concerned Rich Pro’s bid for ASA is too low. Duff & Phelps has said it is also concerned at the “multiple unexplained connections between (Rich Pro) and Mr Ning”. The firm said the Rich Pro bid may be an attempt by Ning to cover up ‘misappropriations’ by former directors of ASA. Rich Pro disputes the allegations and successfully applied to the courts in London to have a second administrator appointed.
The Mail on Sunday has seen correspondence showing the Takeover Panel — which rules on UK mergers and takeovers — has investigated. A rival, unidentified bidder is also interested in taking over ASA. Administrators will decide the winner but some small shareholders are unhappy with the Rich Pro bid.
Ian “Barry” Dearing, who is a director and shareholder of ASA, said: “How the UK regulators are permitting this bid by RPI to proceed astonishes me. It is sheer daylight robbery of shareholders.
“None of the authorities in the UK nor anybody overseas apart from the Zimbabwean government has recognised the potential large-scale removal of value going on.” He alleged that Rich Pro had not told shareholders the “true value” of ASA’s DRC copper joint venture.
A spokesman for Rich Pro said Ning was not involved in its offer for ASA and that it had no intention of involving him in managing it. The spokesman added that Rich Pro “fully supports” the administrators’ investigations. The Takeover Panel declined to comment. Lawyers for Ning did not respond to requests for comment. — Financial Mail.