SIERRA Leoneans seeking damages for alleged environmental degradation around a diamond mine have applied for a freezing order on the assets of Octea, a subsidiary of mining billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s BSG Resources (BSGR), said Reuters.
Citing an affidavit to the high court of Sierra Leone, Reuters said there was a “clear and present risk” the defendants could expatriate funds in order to avoid having to pay out if the court rules against them.
Sierra Leone’s High Court discussed the application for a freezing order on Tuesday and will continue on Wednesday, a lawyer for the prosecution and a court clerk told the newswire. A spokesman for BSGR said the company would not comment until there was a legal ruling.
The lawsuit against Octea subsidiary Koidu Limited, filed in March last year by 73 plaintiffs who all live within 500 metres of the mine, says they have suffered respiratory infections and headaches from living near the mine. They are seeking $288m in damages.
The affidavit said that without a freezing order, plaintiffs might have to seek execution of a possible judgment in their favour in as many as seven separate jurisdictions, because most of the 12 defendants are not domiciled in Sierra Leone, and BSGR is in administration proceedings.
BSGR, Octea Limited, and linked companies Octea Diamonds Limited and Octea Services Limited are registered in Guernsey.