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Former arms dealer says he pulled out of Griffiths Energy's Chad deal

Mahamoud Bechir, former Chadian ambassador to Canada. In January, under a new management, Griffiths Energy paid a $10.35-million fine for bribing Mr. Bechir’s wife in connection with the company’s effort to convince the Chadian government to allow it to explore and produce oil in the country.

Geoffrey York/The Globe and Mail

Ari Ben-Menashe, a Montreal-based consultant and former arms dealer with ties to African leaders, said he was approached by Griffiths Energy International Inc. to help the company secure oil and gas leases in Chad.

Mr. Ben-Menashe said he walked away from the task – and returned the money Griffiths Energy paid him – because he found the company's disclosure questionable.

"We were approached to intervene on Griffiths behalf with [Chad's] President [Idress] Derby," Mr. Ben-Menashe said. "We signed a consultancy deal and they paid us." He would not disclose how much the oil and gas company paid him.

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"Once we realized things did not add up and there was no full disclosure on their activities about what they did in Chad, we pulled out and we even sent the money back," Mr. Ben-Menashe said. "We started looking into it. It didn't add up. All the pieces didn't add up and then we realized there wasn't full disclosure and we pulled out." Mr. Ben-Menashe would not say what triggered his concerns about Griffiths Energy.

In January, under a new management, Griffiths Energy paid a $10.35-million fine for bribing the wife of Mahamoud Bechir, Chad's former ambassador to Canada, in connection with the company's effort to convince the Chadian government to allow it to explore and produce oil in the country.

Griffiths Energy's link to Mr. Ben-Menashe, an international operator whose Montreal home was firebombed in December by an unknown assailant, demonstrates the connections the company was eager to forge to reach its goal. Griffiths Energy founder Brad Griffiths, who died while boating alone in July, 2011, worked extensively to make political connections with Chad officials, including Mr. Bechir, as part of the effort to secure oil leases, according to court filings.

Court documents filed last week included e-mails exchanged between Mr. Griffiths and lawyer Jacques Bouchard, referencing Mr. Ben-Menashe. Mr. Bouchard advised Griffiths Energy as a lawyer with Heenan Blaikie. He left the law firm in December, 2011, and Griffiths Energy then hired Norton Rose's Calgary predecessor, McLeod Dixon in January, 2011.

"Ambassador just called, his proposal on the economic terms for Chad would make the blocks worth about 20 cents. If Ari has those decrees I hope he also got the terms we talked about. If not he wasted a lot of time and money," said one e-mail, sent from Mr. Griffiths' BlackBerry on Nov. 16, 2010. The e-mails, including the typos, appear in documents filed in court last week.

On Nov. 24, 2010, Mr. Griffiths again referenced Mr. Ben-Menashe in an e-mail to Mr. Bouchard.

"Ambassador taking my new proposal directly to President within the hour. Proposal is silent on taxes and royalties. Partners have signed confidentiality agreements. We have offered a billion in infrastructure from our consortium. Ari called and said he is in Moscow this weekend. Will know status of blocks today. No idea where this is going," the e-mail said.

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Arthur Porter, a Montreal doctor, resigned from his post as chair of Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees the country's spy agency, after his dealings with Mr. Ben-Menashe were revealed by the National Post, which has also reported on a previous working relationship between Mr. Ben-Menashe and Mr. Bouchard. Mr. Bouchard, Heenan Blaikie, Norton Rose and Mr. Ben-Menashe have not been accused of any wrongdoing involving Griffiths Energy.

Mr. Ben-Menashe served as a key witness in the treason trial against Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Mr. Tsvangirai was accused of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. Mr. Ben-Menashe, an international consultant, admitted he taped a meeting where Mr. Tsvangirai discussed Mr. Mugabe's "elimination," media reports from the 2003 trial say. A Zimbabwe court threw out the case against Mr. Tsvangirai, finding Mr. Ben-Menashe lacked credibility.

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