Regal's Timis named in Romania organised crime investigation

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The Independent Online

Frank Timis, the controversial chairman of Regal Petroleum, has been named in three separate criminal investigations that are on-going in Romania, where his company has major gas exploration interests.

Frank Timis, the controversial chairman of Regal Petroleum, has been named in three separate criminal investigations that are on-going in Romania, where his company has major gas exploration interests.

According to a document obtained by a Romanian environmentalist group, among the inquiries into which Mr Timis has been drawn is an investigation under the country's laws against organised crime and drugs. Mr Timis, who has two convictions in Australia for possession of heroin with intent to supply, recently fell out dramatically with the City after Regal revealed that its Greek interests could be worthless.

The news of the existence of the Romanian investigations will increase the pressure on Mr Timis and Regal, where many shareholders have demanded a management shake-up following a collapse in the company's share price. It is reported that the Financial Services Authority is examining the company's conduct, as its Greek disappointment came shortly after it had raised £45m from investors.

The Romania inquiries emerged after a local activist group called Alburnus Maior wrote to the country's Supreme Court, under the freedom of information rules in Romania, asking if there were any current criminal investigations involving Mr Timis. They received the answer that there were three dossiers that featured Regal Petroleum's executive chairman, who is of Romanian origin and whose full name is Vasile Frank Timis.

The letter from Serban Bengescu, an official in the judiciary, made available to The Independent, said: "The named Timis Frank Vasile is implicated in the files No.3/P/2002 of the section on combating organised crime and anti-drugs in the Prosecutor's Office of the High Court of Cassation and Justice [the Supreme Court], No.33/P/2002 of the Military Prosecutor's Office of the Military Court of Appeal Bucharest and No.119/P72001 of the Prosecutor's Office of the Court of Appeal Alba-Iulia."

Alburnus Maior is opposed to the planned mining activities of another company that Mr Timis founded called Gabriel Resources, which owns licences for a massive gold mining project in the mountains at a place called Rosia Montana. The activists are seeking answers from the authorities about the allegations in each of these cases and how Mr Timis figures in the investigations. Mr Timis has said he no longer has any links with Gabriel Resources.

Stephanie Roth, a Swiss national who is a volunteer with Alburnus Maior, noted that the last of these cases, at a court in Alba-Iulia, was close to the proposed mine site in Rosia Montana.

Media reports in Romania have questioned how Gabriel Resources acquired the mining licences for what is planned to be Europe's largest open cast gold mine for a mere $3m (£1.6m). The project would involve the forcible removal of 2,000 local people and, according to Ms Roth, the destruction of a Roman-era mining settlement on the site. She said: "The farmers here have their land and nothing else."

Bobby Morse, a spokesman for Regal, said: "Frank strongly denies the allegations. He has never been contacted by any judicial authorities in Romania. This is the first he's heard of it. He will defend himself vigorously." Mr Timis is also behind Sierra Leone Diamond Company, which floated on AIM earlier this year. The company, in which Mr Timis is a major shareholder, shares offices with Regal but is now in the process of moving in order to limit its ties with Regal.

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