The dirty business of the CEO of mining company Resgen includes environmental pillage, theft and paedophilia.
Resource Generation Ltd (Resgen), a company listed both in Australia and on the JSE, is currently seeking to raise funds to develop the controversial Boikarabelo open-cast coal mine in the Waterberg region. The project is to be undertaken by its BEE-compliant local subsidiary, Ledjadja Coal.
Various NGOs have been desperately campaigning to stop coal mining there, as it threatens to permanently poison the water supply to huge swathes of already drought-stricken South Africa. Besides its impact on human settlements and agriculture, it could destroy the Kruger National Park.
No surprise: in keeping with the culture of the Zuma era, Resgen’s single biggest shareholder is the government-controlled Public Investment Corporation.
In October the Resgen Board issued a statement announcing that, “given the current state of negotiations with proposed financiers”, it has deemed it in the best interests of the company to extend the employment contract of its CEO, Rob Lowe, for at least a further 12 months. His contract provides for a large salary and a very good success bonus.
|Resgen CEO Rob Lowe|
Who is Rob Lowe? Where have we come across his name before? What sort of man would determinedly set about promoting for personal profit a mining operation which threatens such huge potential cost to nature and the country?
This is what Noseweek has discovered:
In November 1994 police in the county of Dorset in England raided the home of a Bournemouth solicitor (attorney) named Robert David Norman Lowe. There they seized 164 video cassettes, 362 magazines, 271 photographs and nine camcorder tapes, all of a paedophile nature. The following day Lowe was arrested on his return to the UK from a business trip abroad – in all probability, to Thailand.
In February 1995 Robert Lowe was sentenced by the Bournemouth Crown Court to seven months imprisonment for having illegally imported indecent and obscene material.
In November of that year an application was brought before the Solicitors Tribunal in London to have him struck off the roll of solicitors for having brought the profession into disrepute. Lowe did not appear and was not represented. He had, however, written a letter to the UK Solicitors’ Complaints Bureau six months earlier in which he made “certain admissions”. In the letter, which he wrote from a hotel room in Zimbabwe, Lowe said he would shortly be leaving for the Far East and would not have a permanent address in the foreseeable future. He accepted that his conduct had brought the solicitors’ profession into disrepute and assured them that he had no intention to ever again practice law. He suggested that the Tribunal might find the psychiatric report prepared for his criminal trial of some assistance – which it did. The Tribunal expressed considerable sympathy for Lowe, having taken into account the report of the psychiatrist who was in no doubt that his problems had their roots in his own unfortunate childhood. It nevertheless remained a serious criminal offence, and he was struck from the roll of solicitors.
In nose49 Noseweek revealed how, in 1998, Dr Frank Carlisle, a well-respected educationalist, had been defrauded by Mercantile Bank and its crooked head of corporate banking, Rob Lowe. Yes, the same Robert Lowe had joined the bank in Johannesburg in 1997 and down the line arranged a dozen unauthorised withdrawals from Carlisle’s bank account into his own, before fleeing the country – for Thailand.
Carlisle had first discovered there was something seriously up (or down) with his Mercantile bank account when, on holiday in Durban he attempted to draw some cash, and was informed there were insufficient funds in an account that, when he last heard, held more than R25m.
He set up a meeting with his bank manager, Lowe, for 18 January 1999. But by then Lowe had disappeared. On 21 January, Carlisle received, by fax, a handwritten note from Lowe on the stationery of the Meridien Park hotel in Frankfurt. “Dear Frank,” the fax began, “After careful reflection I have decided to absent myself ....”. Alan Greenstein, Mercantile’s head of operations too received, a few days later, a fax from Lowe, this one from Thailand. In it Lowe revealed that he had left his company BMW at Johannesburg International Airport.
Experienced forensic accountant Frik Botha, upon examining the entire record, found that the unauthorised and unexplained debits from Carlisle’s bank account totalled a staggering R20,962,624.70.
For example, one of the debits was described on the bank’s records (kept hidden by Lowe) as a payment to a company called African Capital. A Cipro search reveals that Robert David Norman Lowe registered the company African Capital Group, and became its first director in October 1997 – at about the time Carlisle approached Mercantile Bank to open an account. The company was said to be based at an address in Edenvale, Johannesburg
Mercantile, rather than disclose who benefited by the transactions, and showing what authorisation they had – or did not have – took to the trenches with their lawyers. It was well known that their counsel’s instructions were to “drag the matter out till Carlisle runs out of money or dies”.
They succeeded. Carlisle ran out of money, and in March 2006 he died aged 68. This was not before Mercantile had tried to have him committed to prison for being in contempt of a court order restraining him from communicating with anyone regarding his case.
At the end of the day, seven years after the sorry saga began, the final and only defence, offered by Mercantile to Carlisle’s claims was Prescription – a legal rule that after a certain time (usually three years) a debt falls away.
A year or two after his disappearance to an unknown address in Thailand, Robert Lowe quietly returned – to Cape Town. In 2002 he is recorded as a director of various Cape Town based companies, with his residential addresses in the Greenpoint area. By 2013 he had moved up a notch: to an apartment on the sparkling waters of the V&A Waterfront.
That, dear reader, is the sort of man who wants to rip up the coal beds of the Waterberg, regardless of the consequences for the environment and the people of South Africa. Coal mining is, after all, a dirty business.
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