Calgary

Former Bre-X chief geologist John Felderhof dies in the Philippines

John Felderhof, the only executive ever prosecuted in the Bre-X Minerals Ltd. gold hoax of the 1990s, has died in the Philippines, according to his Toronto lawyer.

He was found not guilty of insider trading in 2007

John Felderhof, the former chief geologist for Bre-X, has died. He's pictured here in Indonesia in a 2007 file photo. (Firdia Lisnawati/The Associated Press)

John Felderhof, the only executive prosecuted in the Bre-X Minerals gold hoax of the 1990s, has died in the Philippines, 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.

Felderhof had been accused by the Ontario Securities Commission of selling $84 million worth of stock while having information not disclosed to investors. Those investors lost billions of dollars when it was disclosed in 1997 that there was virtually no gold at Bre-X's Busang mine site in Indonesia.

Felderhof's lawyer, Joe Groia, says his family let him know by email Monday that he died of natural causes on the weekend. He had been living a simple life with his wife and family in a village near Manila, Philippines, he said.

Groia 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.

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.

Bre-X filed for bankruptcy in November 1997.

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 at the Busang site, 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.

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