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Lerala boss escapes jail time in Australia

MBONGENI MGUNI
Lerala Diamond Mine was recently the subject of an online auction
Alex Alexander, the sole director of the company that owned Lerala Diamond Mine and who reportedly ran the Tswapong Mine via a Whatsapp group, this week walked out of a Sydney courthouse a happy man after a jury ruled in his favour on four charges of deceiving investors.

Alexander, who is believed to be of Russian origin, is the principal player in the Lerala Diamond Mine saga, where more than 130 workers were left jobless last June when the mine was abruptly closed.

Alexander, through his companies, is presently wrestling with government over a 53,000 carat parcel of diamonds, liquidators here believe was secreted out of the company just before Lerala closed in order to put the stones out of reach of other creditors.

Alexander was facing four counts of “issuing false and misleading statements to investors,” relating to his dealings regarding Ellendale Diamond Mine, which at the time of the alleged offence was owned by Kimberly Diamonds, a company in which he held a majority.

The four counts carried maximum sentences of five years in jail each and/or a fine of P252,000 each. Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) national manager – media, Gervase Greene told BusinessWeek that after a seven-week trial dating back to mid-May, Alexander had been acquitted of two of the charges. The Sydney jury was unable to reach a decision on the other two.

“He was yesterday found not guilty on two counts

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related to issuing false or misleading information to the market following the six-week jury trial in the District Court of NSW, in Sydney,” Greene said in an emailed response to enquiries.

“The jury was not able to reach a unanimous decision in relation to two other charges of misleading the market.”

The recent court proceedings were actually a retrial, after Alexander spent four weeks before the district court in May 2016, with the jury again failing to reach unanimous decisions.

In a statement this week, ASIC said Alexander’s matter is listed for mention on Friday July 13, 2018 to advise whether there will be a further trial of the two charges on which the jury were unable to reach a decision.

BusinessWeek is informed that while the court could order a fresh trial on the two charges, this option is rarely exercised in Australia especially when the matter is on retrial.

Meanwhile, the fate of Lerala Mine remains unclear after the recent public auction. BusinessWeek is informed that despite the P81 million winning bid, processes around the deal are yet to be finalised, with creditors growing increasingly anxious.



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