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Also in this section:
Fifer steps down at Petaquilla

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Business & Economy Briefs
 

Fifer steps down as Petaquilla CEO, company
continues to misrepresent his legal woes

by Eric Jackson

On March 23 in Vancouver, Petaquilla Minerals Ltd. announced that "The Board of Directors of Petaquilla Minerals Ltd. ('PTQ' or the 'Company') and Richard Fifer have agreed that Mr. Fifer will temporarily step down as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Mr. Fifer will continue to serve the Company in a non-executive role, and will remain as a director."

Fifer is being prosecuted for allegedly diverting more than $100,000 in funds allocated to Cocle province and Spanish assistance to a museum in Penonome to himself, through the salaries of "botellas," the Panamanian description of phantom employees. These acts of embezzlement allegedly took place when Fifer was governor of Cocle province during part of the Moscoso administration. Fifer has deposited the money he allegedly stole with the Directorate of Patrimonial Responsibility and denied any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, criminal proceedings against him continue before a court in Cocle.

A warrant was issued for Fifer's arrest on February 4, and on February 21, after  a judge quashed the warrant but not the underlying accusation, he turned himself in to authorities. Meanwhile on February 10, without the Canadian market having been informed that its CEO was a fugitive, Petaquilla sold half a million shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange for 65¢ each. At the end of that month the company issued a press release falsely stating that there were no charges against Fifer, and the March 23 announcement continued that misrepresentation by asserting that "the Company's   independent counsel in Panama has confirmed that no charges have been laid against Mr. Fifer."

Petaquilla's shares are traded on both the Toronto Stock Exchange and over the counter on the NASDAQ, and thus Canadian or US laws about insider trading or misrepresentations designed to affect markets may apply.

But despite a series of carefully worded press releases suggesting close cooperation among Petaquilla, Panamanian government officials and international financial institutions, and hailing the discovery of gold in Colon's Donoso district, Petaquilla's stock has declined since February's big sale of company-held shares, dropping from 65¢ to a low of 43¢ and then rebounding to 47¢ by the last business day before this story was uploaded. According to Reuters, Petaquilla's weak position is based on the facts that institutional investors are getting rid of the stock, the company's shares have been on a downward trend and that Petaquilla has not performed as well as other companies in its sector.

That latter point, however, may be an unfair comparison. Most of the mining companies with which Reuters compares Petaquilla are actually extracting minerals and selling them to various markets. Petaquilla, a mining claim that Richard Fifer has maintained under various corporate guises since 1987, has never been in commercial production. It is known, however, that in the vast swathe of northern Cocle and western Colon provinces that the concession encompasses there are deposits of copper, gold, silver and molybdenum. Much of that same area may be taken by the Panama Canal Authority under eminent domain if the flooding of the Western Watershed becomes a part of a Panama Canal expansion plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also in this section:
Fifer steps down at Petaquilla

Threatened world commercial fishery
Steel scrap suddenly valuable
The line at the canal's north end
Business & Economy Briefs

 

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