Friday, March 27, 2009

Wrekin ruby saga now has £100m goat-serum-as-Aids-cure twist

The ВЈ11m Wrekin ruby saga continues to dazzle with its surprising twists. This time it’s the revelation that a former owner of the gem was in the news when he was exposed as the force behind a ВЈ100m scheme in Africa which was attempting to sell goat serum as an Aids-cure product.

Wrekin Construction's uncertain future was saved two years ago thanks to a take-over offer from David Unwin.

Unwin produced a certificate вЂ“ which was assumed to be genuine вЂ“ valuing a piece of precious stone at ВЈ11m.

Wrekin took ownership of the stone and handed Unwin £11m-worth of preference shares. At a stroke Wrekin’s credit worthiness was restored as the balance sheet was transformed into asset.


Wrekin ruby saga now has £100m goat-serum-as-Aids-cure twist


That transaction was based on a certificate of valuation, originating in Italy and dated as being 2007. Doubt surrounds its accuracy.

Also, a previous certificate which attempted to establish the stone’s worth at £11m dating from 2004, now looks to be a further illusion.

But the jewel had a colourful history even prior to that.

The Shropshire Star newspaper reports: “It emerged today that the uncut stone once belonged to a businessman exposed as being behind a ВЈ100m scheme selling a вЂcure for Aids’.

“Official documents supporting the £11m valuation for the gemstone in 2004 show it was owned by Trevor Michael Hart Jones, also known as Michael Hart Jones.

“The documents include an appraisal of the stone's value in 2004 for Hart Jones, who was later exposed by the BBC Newsnight programme as running a scheme, apparently backed by the Swaziland royal family, selling вЂgoat serum’ as a cure for Aids.

“The scheme was brought to the attention of the BBC by Swazi-born actor Richard E Grant, who had seen a brochure from Hart Jones' company, Commercial African Resources Development, which showed African patients being injected with the serum and showing marked improvement within 20 minutes.”

Grant called Newsnight after discovering that Hart Jones had allegedly been involved in diamond deals with the military junta which took power in Sierra Leone in 1997.

Gem expert David Davis, who undertook a valuation, records the stone as being a ruby from Tanzania, of "very fine red colour" which could be cut into many gem stones.

Hart Jones is thought to have sold the ruby to another party who later did a deal with Unwin – he parted with a package of land in exchange for the ruby and вЂsome Rolls Royce cars’.

Unwin owns five other trading operations in addition to Wrekin which is now in administration. Unwin’s activities all come together under a holding company called Tamar.

An unnamed gemstone is listed in the Tamar’s accounts in 2005, with a value of £300,000.

Peter Greenwood, a Wrekin director told CJ that after acquiring the ruby for £11m in 2007, Wrekin subsequently had it valued “annually”.

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