Monday, March 30, 2009

Wrekin's £11m ruby changed hands for just £13,000 in 1998

Wrekin Construction’s most dazzling asset – “The Gem of Tanzania” - was bought for just £13,000 by its first owner.

That's despite the fact that its third owner, David Unwin, used it to step forward two years ago and 'invest ВЈ11m' into Wrekin when it was on its knees after racking up operating losses while run by Simon Frain (chairman) and John Worthington (chief executive).

Wrekin went into administration three weeks ago.

Unwin’s 2.1kg gemstone had passed through the hands of two previous owners since being discovered in 1998 by an African miner working for Ideal Standards, a company working near the small town of Arusha in Tanzania.

The Financial Times has uncovered a series of twists and turns in the fascinating story from that moment on.


Wrekins £11m ruby changed hands for just £13,000 in 1998


Trevor Michael Hart-Jones had invested in Ideal Standards and the company sold him the item for a mere ВЈ13,000.

“It was not Hart-Jones’s first foray into gem dealing,” said the FT. “He was convicted of illegal diamond trading in South Africa in the early 1980s.”

“Moreover, in 1997, he struck a deal with an illegal junta in Sierra Leone to exploit its mineral resources, according to official testimony from Ahmed Kabbah, the elected president restored to power in 1998.

“Businesses run by Hart-Jones would in return have raised a £670m loan for the junta.”

Hart-Jones, interviewed last week in his cottage in East Sussex, said he was wrongly convicted of illegal diamond trading.

The same man appeared on BBC Newsnight in 2007 when a ВЈ100m scheme, apparently backed by the Swaziland royal family, surfaced in which an Aids cure that he was pedalling turned out to be nothing more than вЂgoat serum’ and the claims of people being cured within 20 minutes were treated with amazement.

Over the weekend Hart-Jones told the FT: “I have a slightly chequered past. All these things have been taken out of context.”

The ruby landed in the UK in 2002. Hart-Jones didn’t find it easy to track down a buyer but eventually it was transferred to the ownership of Tony Howarth.

Howarth now lives in Switzerland.

In 2006, Howarth and Unwin shook hands on a deal that saw “The Gem of Tanzania” pass across to Unwin, along with “some Rolls Royce cars” in exchange for a parcel of land.

As part of that deal the gem was valued at ВЈ300,000.

In 2007, Tamar switched its accountants to Ashgates, the Derby-based accountancy group. Ashgates accepted the rock’s raised value of £11m.

When contacted by, Ashgates refused to discuss the gem. Requests were turned down with the reply: “We can’t comment.”

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