The Busang gold hoax has fuelled interest in the mystery surrounding the death of geologist de Guzman

Questions: What significant role, if any, did he play in the scam?

Questions: Did he commit suicide because he felt responsible for it?

THE mystery surrounding the role of Bre-X geologist Michael de Guzman in the Busang gold scam and his sudden death in March which hastened the unravelling of the fraud is still far from resolved.

Speculation is rife in Jakarta that Mr de Guzman could have played a key role in the scam and that he committed suicide because he felt responsible for the scandal.

As Bre-X’s chief geologist, the Filipino was responsible for supervising the drilling and preparation of all samples Busang shipped to the independent laboratories that came up with the figures for the incredible amount of gold at Busang.

Bre-X said Busang holds 71 million ounces, making it the world’s largest gold strike.

Some mining experts said that Mr de Guzman also kept the same team of six or seven geologists around him. All were partly paid in Bre-X shares and all would have benefited from seeing the share price take off, as it did after the Canadian firm bought the Busang concession in March 1993.

Others have alleged privately that the geologist had problems with a previous employer that led to his dismissal.

Observers believe that he jumped out of a helicopter taking him to the Busang gold site in the jungles of East Kalimantan, after Freeport geologists had found vastly different results of the gold samples.

Indonesian police insist they have found evidence that Mr de Guzman committed suicide.

Brig-Gen Ahwil Luthan of Indonesian Interpol told The Straits Times yesterday that police had found a seven-page note in his bag in which the 41-year-old geologist wrote that he could no longer bear a multitude of illnesses.

He had suffered 14 bouts of malaria after doing exploration work in the Philippines and Indonesian jungles. His wife also said that he had been diagnosed recently with hepatitis B.

Said BG Luthan: “The facts of the case are very clear. A handwriting analysis of the note shows it is his letter.”

He said that the autopsy results were also conclusive and that police had also found a match in the finger prints. He added though that the body was already in a decomposed state when it was found.

The autopsy was done by provincial medical authorities on March 25. Also present were a Filipino diplomat and four Indonesian forensic experts.

BG Luthan, who was involved in the investigations, said that the helicopter’s pilot and flight engineer told police they felt a blast of wind 17 minutes after taking off from Samarinda in the eastern province of Kalimantan on March 19, glanced back and found their only back-seat passenger gone and the right-side sliding door open.

He added that investigations also revealed that Mr de Guzman was wearing a seat belt before take off, and that he took it off before jumping from the helicopter.

“Who else would have done it?” said BG Luthan. “That is why the pilot and flight engineer were so shocked to see him missing from the helicopter.

“We also found that he left most of his personal belongings, including watch, handphone and wallet, in his suitcase.”

While the official reason for Mr de Guzman’s death is suicide, his family and friends in Manila have rejected this as well as his role in the gold scam. They said nothing in his past suggested he would participate in such a scam.

BG Luthan said another autopsy on Mr de Guzman was being carried out in the Philippines.

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