Small Talk: Baltic Barracuda tries to slip off the hook in Langbar case

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The Independent Online

One of the founders of Langbar International will today attempt to get the fraud case against him struck out at the High Court on a legal technicality.

Langbar, once AIM's biggest cash shell, is seeking damages from Mauriusz Rybak, along with a number of other fellow directors, for deceit, conspiracy to defraud and for breach of fiduciary duties.

Lawyers expect that Mr Rybak's representatives will argue that the case against him is unfounded on the grounds that it is not representative of the company's shareholders.

Up until now, Langbar, headed by corporate recovery expert David Buchler, has alone led the civil case against Mr Rybak.

The Canadian businessman will point out that Langbar is a legal entity separate from its shareholders.

To counter this, the company will most probably ask the judge, Mr Justice Kitchin, to have a number of institutional shareholders added to the writ against the businessman alongside the company. Gartmore, Merrill Lynch and Ennismore Fund Management are among the institutions left out of pocket by the fraud at Langbar.

Mr Rybak is originally from the sea port of Gdynia on Poland's Baltic coast. Prior to his involvement in the creation of Langbar he lived in Canada and built up a technology firm in Ottowa during the 1990s.

There he became know as the Baltic Barracuda because of his aggressive business style. His technology company eventually collapsed into receivership amid mounting losses. These days he lives in Monaco and is reported to have received death threats from disgruntled Langbar shareholders. Investors in the now de-listed compare are estimated to have lost around £85m.

Pressure on chairman

Word on the street has it that Michael Thomsen, executive chairman of Cambridge Mineral Resources, is under pressure from institutional shareholders to step down from his position at the AIM-listed mining group.

Despite the resources boom of recent years, CMR shares have performed poorly. While many stocks in the sector have doubled and trebled, its shares have headed south. When Mr Thomsen joined the company in February 2003 they traded at around 11p. On Friday they closed at 4p, valuing CMR at just £5.7m.

CMR, which is focused on gold mining in countries such as Spain, Colombia and Peru, has a number of institutional investors including RAB Capital, Bluehone Investors LLP and Adam & Company Investment Management. They are believed to be unhappy with the company's performance under Mr Thomsen's chairmanship, and have also pointed out that he has declined to invest a penny of his own money in the company.

Monterrico poll joy

Shares in the Peruvian copper miner Monterrico Metals gained 22 per cent last week after the South American country elected centre-left candidate Alan Garcia as president.

His victory is good news for Monterrico, which saw its shares slide ahead of the election amid fears that Mr Garcia's rival, Ollanta Humala, would take the presidency. Mr Humala, a former general who had the backing of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, had campaigned for greater state control over the economy and had even hinted at part-nationalisation of mining companies.

Although also a left-winger, Mr Garcia portrayed himself as a moderate in the run-up to the election. He criticised Mr Chavez's involvement in Peru's elections and is tipped as likely to be business friendly.

This is very important to Monterrico Metals, which has all its assets in Peru. The group is banking on its Rio Blanco project becoming one of the biggest of its kind in the world. Although it is still under development, it is thought to be capable of producing 200,000 to 280,000 tonnes of copper per annum.

The next key piece of data expected from the company is a feasibility study due out before the end of the year. This should indicate exactly how much it will cost Monterrico to mine the site.

Yachts fuel firm seeks berth on AIM

Europe's leading supplier of fuel to private yachts could be on AIM before the end of the month as negotiations aimed at its reverse takeover of an already listed cash shell enter their final phase.

Yacht Fuel Services has been in talks about a tie-up with AIM shell Premier Management Holdings (PMH) since the start of May.

Yacht Fuel Services specialises in providing marine fuels and lubricants to around 250 of the world's 650 largest yachts. The group hopes to cash in on the fast-growing market for yachts and super yachts which has been fuelled by new fortunes emanating mostly from China and Russia.

In 2005, Yacht Fuel Services registered a 35 per cent rise in sales to £11m, and a profit of £510,000. After the takeover, the combined group is expected to be valued at about £8.5m.

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