Is he or isn't he?
Michael de Guzman, the Bre-X Minerals Ltd. geologist who purportedly died in a fall from a helicopter eight years ago, may not be dead after all. This week, his widow told a Singapore newspaper that her husband may still be alive -- and sending her money.
Genie de Guzman said she received $25,000 (U.S.) from her husband, drawn from a Citibank branch in Brazil about three months ago.
"Sometimes I think I'm in a movie," Ms. de Guzman, 42, told the newspaper. "There has never been any closure. I never believed he was dead."
The Straits Times said Ms. de Guzman has not returned the newspaper's calls since the interview and would not provide a bank document detailing the transaction.
Mr. de Guzman was a central figure in the Bre-X resource scandal, but reportedly fell from a helicopter into the Indonesian jungle just before the hype of a huge gold strike fizzled into a tale of salted core samples and no evidence of a significant discovery.
Is he alive?
"I think that it's a very real possibility," said Vivian Danielson, former long-time editor of industry journal The Northern Miner and co-author of Gold Today, Gone Tomorrow: the Anatomy of the Bre-X Swindle, one of a flurry of books published in the wake of the hoax.
"If they could execute this sort of scam, it's no big stretch to fake your death."
Peter Howe, a Toronto mining engineer who has been involved in Indonesian mining exploration projects since the 1970s and employed Mr. de Guzman on a contract basis in the 1980s, was more skeptical.
"I can't believe he's alive," Mr. Howe said. "Nobody has ever heard from him."
A body was found in the jungle but some, including Ms. Danielson, say there was never conclusive proof such as DNA evidence that the body was indeed that of Mr. de Guzman. The body was cremated.
After the scandal broke, attention zeroed in on who was responsible for tampering with the samples and whether company insiders had information that should have been shared with investors.
But even if Mr. de Guzman is alive, he would be out of reach of penalties or investigation by the Ontario Securities Commission, a spokesman said yesterday.
"Under the [Ontario Securities]act we have a six-year limitation period, which means that we wouldn't be able to do anything relating to offenses that may have been committed before 1999," said Michael Watson, OSC's head of enforcement.
The OSC has pursued a lengthy case against John Felderhof, former chief geologist at Bre-X.
Mr. Felderhof has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of insider trading and misleading investors.
The OSC has accused Mr. Felderhof of selling $84-million worth of Bre-X stock between April and October of 1996 while having information not disclosed to investors.