CALGARY — John Felderhof, the only executive ever prosecuted in the Bre-X Minerals Ltd. gold hoax of the 1990s, has died in the Philippines at 79 years old, according to his Toronto lawyer.
The former chief geologist of the Calgary-based mining company was found not guilty of insider trading in 2007. The dismissal of two civil lawsuits in 2014 closed the final legal chapter of one of the biggest corporate scandals in Canadian history.
Lawyer Joe Groia said Felderhof’s sister and niece let him know by email Monday that he had died of natural causes on the weekend and a funeral would take place later this week.
“He was living in a village with his new wife and his adopted family. They ran a small variety store and laundromat,” said Groia.
“He was very happy with his new family and I think the last years of his life were good to him.”
He said he last saw Felderhof about four years ago but has kept in touch by email and with occasional phone calls.
Bre-X was the darling of the Toronto Stock Exchange after reporting finding a major gold deposit in Indonesia. But the Busang mine find was later revealed to be a fake, resulting in the company’s shares nose-diving and wiping out about $3 billion in investors’ money.
Bre-X filed for bankruptcy in November 1997.
Felderhof was accused by the Ontario Securities Commission of selling $84 million worth of stock while having information not disclosed to other investors.
Groia said he is convinced Felderhof had nothing to with planting gold in ore samples.
“He was deceived like everyone else was deceived,” he said.
“Of course, since Bre-X we are all a lot more skeptical, but no one had ever seen a salting scam of this magnitude before and I daresay most of us hopefully will never see it again.”
Felderhof tried to make a living in mining after Bre-X but “unfortunately no one was prepared to work with him again in the mining field,” said Groia.
Most of his savings were lost in a divorce settlement with his ex-wife, he added.
David Walsh, who was CEO of Bre-X, died in June 1998 at age 52 in the Bahamas of an apparent brain aneurysm.
Geologist Michael de Guzman, who was later blamed for orchestrating the salting of gold core samples, is believed to have died after falling, jumping or being pushed from a helicopter above the Indonesian jungle in 1996.
Felderhof was born in the Netherlands and moved to Nova Scotia as a teenager.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2019.
Dan Healing, The Canadian Press