| Tony Buckingham |
Tony Buckingham, buccaneering businessman in the style of Tiny Rowland
|Born||28 November 1951|
Anthony Leslie Rowland "Tony" Buckingham (born 28 November 1951) is a British businessman of the hard school, equally adept at running mercenary operations against insurgents as prising oil and gems out of the ground in the most inhospitable climates.
Tony Buckingham was described as the "obvious heir apparent" to the great business buccaneer Tiny Rowland, who died in July 1998. Like Tiny Rowland two decades before, Tony Buckingham has made a killing by befriending and helping to power emergent Third World leaders. He even has "Rowland" as a middle name.
As with Tiny Rowland, Tony Buckingham's rise to riches has not been without controversy. Buckingham was a founding partner of Executive Outcomes – the unit of crack (mainly South African) commandos whose chief alumnus was Simon Mann. He was also a leading figure in Sandline International, the mercenary group run by Col Tim Spicer. Its activities in Sierra Leone made a mockery of the newly elected Blair government’s ‘ethical’ foreign policy when it transpired that the Foreign Office - through the High Commissioner Peter Penfold - was implicated in arms sales.
- "The Executive Outcomes mercenaries are not simply ‘guns for hire’," noted the Observer in 1997. "They are the advance guard for major business interests engaged in a latter-day scramble for the mineral wealth of Africa [including] oil, gold and diamond-mining ventures… and offshore financial management services."
Tony Buckingham runs Branch International, the holding company for the Branch-Heritage group with interests in oil exploration and production, mainly in Nigeria where Heritage Oil invested £550 million in 2012, and the mining of gem stones. In May 2014, Heritage Oil was bought by Al Mirqab Capital, a private investment vehicle of Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, in a deal worth £924 million. Tony Buckingham, whose 34% stake in Heritage Oil was valued at £300 million, agreed to remain as an adviser to the new owners and retain a 20% stake for at least five years.
With a large house in Guernsey, which he shares with his wife, Bev, Tony Buckingham is a very wealthy man. He looks the part of the tough oilman, stockily built and with a pugilistic demeanour. Socially he has a reputation as a bon viveur:
- "You could not get a more engaging lunch companion," said one acquaintance.
And like Tiny Rowland, Buckingham likes relaxing on his yacht. At weekends he can be seen sipping rum and coke on his boat, "Easy Oars", on the Solent.
Michael Grunberg, a former partner in the accountants Stoy Hayward, who helps Buckingham run his companies from their office in the King's Road, west London, said:
- "I have worked with him for five years and he has been a loyal friend. He is a tough businessmen, but he is one of the most amenable people I have ever met."
Charles Jamieson, chief executive of Premier Oil, a major British oil company, who worked with Buckingham in the early 1990s, said:
- "The trouble with Tony is he is a likeable rogue."
Tony Buckingham's roots are somewhat mysterious. Even business partners know little of his past. In company records he gives his nationality as British and date of birth as 28 November 1951. But there is no birth certificate for him in the public records on that date. He has not denied a special forces background, believed to be in 22 SAS - the territorial regiment. His business partner, Simon Mann, is also a former SAS officer.
Overview by 'News Junkie Post'
Overview by John Goss of News Junkie Post:
Historically Benghazi was sought after for its beauty and vegetation. It was once such a plush area, it was likened to a mythological and heavenly garden tended by nymphs and indeed went by the name Hesperides. For three centuries it was under Greek colonisation, for another six it was a Roman colony. The Turkish (later Ottoman) empire controlled the area another 300 years until early in the last century, then Benghazi fell under the Italian yoke. Today, it is not so much the beauty of the area that attracts the world’s imperialists as the residue from those early Elysian gardens, once an inspiration to the poets of old. Millennia of biodegradation have left, beneath the surface, wells of the black pollutant for which greedy people and governments will drench their hands with blood. This brings us to Tony Buckingham.
Executive holdings and outcomes
Tony Buckingham’s history is as shady as Benghazi’s is colourful. Buckingham has added to his multi-millions using mercenary deals in Africa through a company called Executive Outcomes and an associated company called Sandline Holdings. Sandline’s activities were concentrated in areas of Angola and Sierra Leone; Buckingham added to his wealth from the diamond mines of these two countries via his Canadian companies Diamond Works and Branch Energy.
Before Buckingham moved primarily into oil through his company, Heritage Oil, he was implicated in mercenary activities throughout Africa, and other countries, with a close-knit private military cabal including Captain Tim Spicer and his former business partner in oil and security companies Simon Mann. Mann was imprisoned for trying to engineer a coup d’état in Equatorial Guinea, an adventure that was funded by Mark Thatcher, son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Buckingham’s interests are scattered far and wide, but he usually conceals his involvement and instead relies on henchmen like Tim Spicer, Stephen Crouch and Christian Sweeting to lobby on his behalf, or on behalf of his companies. Over the years, Buckingham has registered companies in diverse tax-havens, including the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and Hong Kong. It is said that his private army and mercenary interests ceased in 1999, and he is no longer involved in Sandline, which was wound up in 2004. This ostensible lack of interest coincided with Nelson Mandela closing down the South African operation of Executive Outcomes at the end of 1998. Although nothing today directly connects Buckingham to any mercenary army, many of his business partners, if not all, have a military or special units’ background. The more wars the West enters, the richer people like Buckingham and Spicer get.
Before Buckingham’s incursion into Libya, he was one of the first oil tycoons into Iraq after the 2003 war: a war which Prime Minister Tony Blair informed an outraged public had nothing to do with oil. Heritage Oil bought into the oilfields of Iraq when the second Gulf War ended; after "discovering" oil in the Kurdistan area of Iraq, Heritage exploited that find through Genel Enerji, a partner company in the Miran field. Before announcing the "find" to the market, Buckingham’s company leaked the confidential information to Genel’s directors Mehmet Sepel, Murat Ozgul and Levent Akca, who bought shares, which they sold on the very day the market was informed of the discovery. These shares rocketed by 25%, and the directors were penalised for insider trading. Interestingly, the three Genel directors had to pay a record fine, but not Heritage Oil, through which the oil discovery had been leaked to them.
"Lawrence of Kurdistan"
Buckingham’s associate Stephen Crouch had been involved in the plan to steal Iraqi oil since the First Gulf War. In 1991 Crouch curried favour with the Kurdish Reconstruction Company, with whom he soon had a disagreement. Known sarcastically as "Lawrence of Kurdistan", Crouch became Director General of Iraqi British Interest Group (IBI) by 1994 and several others subsequently. He has tried to project an image of working for the secret services, though this has been denied by MI6. Crouch came under public scrutiny when British conservative politician Liam Fox had to resign in 2011 over the Adam Werritty scandal. As well as paying £5,000 towards the election campaign of Simon Hart on behalf of Buckingham, Crouch made a donation of £50,000 to Conservative Party funds, again using the former mercenary’s money. Werritty, it will be recalled, was an unofficial defence adviser allegedly on behalf of the government, who used fake calling cards with a House of Commons portcullis printed on them. Werrity was funded through a bogus charity set up by Fox, called Atlantic Bridge, until the Charity Commission closed it down. After this, he got funds via donations to his own company, Pargav. Before Atlantic Bridge’s disgraceful demise, its ranks included, at one time or another, many of the top government ministers and a number of shadow ministers. Margaret Thatcher was its Honorary President.
When a country invades another country to steal its oil or other mineral wealth, one may logically expect the inhabitants of the invaded country to prefer their oil, or other stolen resources, to be used for their personal benefit. From the viewpoint of the thief who wants to keep his loot, the oilfields need defending. To defend the newly-acquired interests in Iraq on behalf of the US, a British-registered private army, otherwise called a security company, was given the contract. Buckingham’s old friend Tim Spicer is very much in charge of security through a company called Aegis Defence Services. Spicer had a meeting with Pentagon officials and was later awarded several contracts including one worth $293 million.
In 2011 Tony Buckingham shelled out £19 million for a stake in Sahara Oil Services Holdings based in Benghazi. Christian Sweeting, a former Conservative candidate who has the confidence of Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is running this operation. Hague and Sweeting share the same gentlemen’s club, The Carlton Club. More than 12 months ago however, Sweeting had difficulty in securing a face-to-face meeting between Buckingham and Hague, and it is not known whether this meeting ever took place. Its purpose was to get Hague’s support for a multi-million pound security contract in Libya. Sweeting was having difficulty selling this same private security idea to Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC). The NTC did not want to be presented with the security mess now evident in Afghanistan and Iraq. Buckingham, through Heritage Oil, has also had his eye on offshore drilling in an area contested by Malta and Libya, which was planned even before Muammar Gaddafi was deposed. Sweeting recruited a retired former British commando Major General John Holmes to set up the security for Heritage Oil interests. Holmes is said to be connected with Simon Mann, formerly, like Buckingham, of Executive Outcomes.
This is speculative, but it seems unlikely that any security contracts proposed by Sweeting have been approved by the NTC. If they have not, this leaves those with oil and other mineral investments in Libya, without security from British-based security companies, most uncomfortable in some eyes. Is this why British nationals, other Europeans and Canadians in Libya have been told to leave the country? On January 27, British citizens were advised to leave Somalia because of a specific threat to their safety. Is there a connection between the two? What will happen next in Benghazi? Is the National Transitional Council no longer a British ally? Will there be drone attacks on Benghazi, or Somalia, or both? Will a false-flag incident be blamed on Somalis? Is the British parliament consulted anymore before such decisions take place? Are there any reasonable people left in the government? Is everybody in government a neo-colonialist? Whatever the answer to these questions, rest assured that the finite mineral resources of the world are its main stumbling-block to world peace.
As the archetypal frontiersman, Tony Buckingham got his first break in the great business frontier of the 1970s - the North Sea - as a diver. The small band of professional divers working on the offshore platforms could make good money. "It was here that he got his great love of the oil business," said a colleague.
In the 1980s, Buckingham moved into the business side of oil and spent much of his time abroad doing deals. Premier's Charles Jamieson said: "At one stage he worked with Bunker Hunt Oil in Pakistan and the Canadian Nova Corp in Africa."
In 1987, Tony Buckingham appears as a director of a company called Sabre Petroleum Ltd. On the board were the wealthy Jivraj brothers, who listed UAE Investment Ltd among their directorships at the time. His big business breakthrough seems to have come with his close friendship with Jack Pierce, the head of Ranger Oil, a well-known Canadian company in the North Sea business. In 1990, Tony Buckingham suggested that Ranger take a slice of the Angola offshore oil field and made the introduction to the Angolan government.
Ranger's executive, John Faulds (Mr Pierce died in 1992) said: "Tony was one of [the] business associates and this was Tony's original concept. Ranger wanted to diversify and this was the ideal project." The company got the concession in 1991 and it has produced a steady flow of oil since. Mr Buckingham's Bahamas-registered company Heritage Oil and Gas took a share in the profits.
When the rebel forces of UNITA captured the vital oil town of Soya in 1993, Tony Buckingham suggested to the Angolan government that it should hire mercenaries. He introduced officials to his friend Eeben Barlow, a former South African special forces officer and head of Executive Outcomes, whose hired hands recaptured the town. Although Buckingham remains a director of Ranger (West Africa) Ltd, according to Mr Faulds "He is no longer a working partner - he sold out."
By the early 1990s Buckingham was moving in influential circles. He became a close friend of Andrew Gifford, a founder of the lobby firm GJW Government Relations, that was at the centre of the Labour Party lobbyist controversy. Buckingham describes him as "a close friend who I have been shooting with." Mr Gifford was Lord (David) Steel's former adviser and at his behest, Lord Steel joined the board of Heritage Oil and Gas. He resigned just before the Papua New Guinea scandal broke. Heritage Oil Corporation has been listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange since 1999.
Tony Buckingham is the current CEO and major shareholder of Branch-Heritage group, which was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2008. Buckingham has led the company through major exploration finds, including the hydrocarbon system in Lake Albert, Uganda and the M’Boundi oilfield in the Republic of Congo. This positive track record is expected to continue as a result of the recently awarded licences in Iraqi Kurdistan and Mali. In July 2013, Tony Buckingham told a London tribunal that he would not bend his evidence to protect his "great mate" Ian Hannam, the City of London dealmaker who was fighting a £450,000 market abuse fine in a case brought by the Financial Conduct Authority.
It is however the mineral business that has been most lucrative for Tony Buckingham. Until 1998, he was a director of a publicly quoted Canadian mining company, DiamondWorks, which has projects in Africa and elsewhere. Buckingham runs Branch International the holding company for the Branch-Heritage group which in turn owns Branch Africa Holdings Ltd with associated companies in Algeria, Angola, Kenya, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Sudan.
Angola and Sierra Leone
Tony Buckingham, became the controlling shareholder and director of DiamondWorks when the company acquired a private company, Branch Energy Ltd, based on the Isle of Man for US$24.4-million in 1995-6. Branch Energy Ltd was granted a mining lease on the diamond bearing Koidu property in Sierra Leone on 22 July 1995. In the early 1990s, Buckingham's military consultancy was retained by Sierra Leone and Angola to provide mercenaries to improve security conditions for foreign mining companies which included his Executive Outcomes (EO), who provided protection to DiamondWorks and shared offices in London with Sandline International, another military consultancy. London-headquartered, Johannesburg-based diamond exploration company DiamondWorks Ltd (TSX: DMW) was one of three junior mining firms that traded on the Canadian stock exchange, (along with Toronto-based AmCan Minerals and Rex Diamond) that contacted Sierra Leone's President Momoh in the early 1990s when the president was seeking new investors. DiamondWorks was "an outgrowth of Carson Gold and Vengold, companies promoted by Robert and Eric Friedland. DiamondWorks and Branch Energy Ltd became "the subject of widespread interest because of their apparent but much-denied connections with two major international security firms, Executive Outcomes and Sandline International." It has been argued that "regardless of Executive Outcomes' own purpose, its involvement in Sierra Leone was in a good cause. EO successfully protected a democratically elected government against a brutal and illegitimate rebel force." Buckingham resigned from DiamondWorks in 1998 retaining a 25 percent share.
"I asked Spicer, who was funding the Sandline contract, and why? He replied that he was not free to tell me who was funding it, but that it related to the securing of some mineral assets within the country. I asked him who Sandline were? I had heard that they were related to Executive Outcomes, whose reputation in Africa was not good. Were Sandline related to Executive Outcomes, and was Mr Tony Buckingham involved in Sandline? Spicer replied that he did not have authority to discuss Sandline’s corporate structure or confidential business matters. He was here to brief me on the wider situation with regard to their strategy on Sierra Leone.
"Spicer then said that he had intelligence that the junta may be attempting to acquire Eastern European weapons, shipped via Nigeria. I said that we could ask the Nigerian government to intercept any such weapons shipments under UN Security Council Resolution 1132. Spicer responded to this by saying that he had understood that the UNSCR applied only to the RUF, and not to the government. I said that this was wrong, and that it was a geographic prohibition covering the whole country. Spicer then asked whether the prohibition applied to dual-use items, which could have either a military or a civilian application. He gave the example of night vision equipment, which he said could be used by the military or in mining. I said that such dual-use items would be subject to export control licensing by the Department of Trade and Industry, who would consult other departments including the FCO and MOD. Spicer then asked if military items could be exported to a neighbouring country such as Guinea, and then on to Sierra Leone. I said no, they couldn’t.
"Spicer later claimed that he informed the FCO at our meeting that he was exporting arms, and that the FCO (i.e. I) gave approval. Well, the Conservative Party saw the Arms to Africa affair as their first real chance to hit the Blair government – still only seven months old – with a scandal. They desperately wanted Spicer to be telling the truth and the FCO to have connived at breaking the law, preferably with ministerial knowledge. Conservatives were comforted in this view by the fact that Tim Spicer was a public schoolboy and a former Lt-Colonel of a Guards regiment. He was a gentleman, and socially very well connected, with friends in the royal family.
"Support for Spicer from Conservatives was predictable. But I had not realised that influence would be exerted on behalf of Spicer from 10 Downing Street. Our policy on Sierra Leone was to seek a solution by peaceful means. I am sure that was what Robin Cook favoured; I discussed it with him several times. But in No. 10 and in parts of the FCO, particularly the United Nations Department, they were starting to formulate the Blair doctrine of radical military interventionism that was to lead Tony Blair to launch more wars than any other British Prime Minister. A fundamental part of this new Blair doctrine was to be the ultimate privatisation – the privatisation of killing. Mercenary troops were seen as having many advantages for quick aggressive campaigns in third world countries. Regular government forces had been configured to fight huge battles against other regular forces. Mercenaries were more flexible and less constrained by regulation. If you consider what less constrained really means in terms of shooting up civilians, it is remarkable that this was viewed as an advantage. Still more remarkably, this policy of military intervention in the developing world had many adherents in DFID, where it was being promoted under the slogan that Security is a precondition of development.
"The Sandline or Arms to Africa affair has been presented by its proponents as a noble attempt to restore democratic government to Sierra Leone, hampered by pettifogging bureaucrats. In fact, it was nothing of the kind, but a deeply squalid plot to corner the market in Sierra Leone’s blood diamonds."
Branch Energy (Namibia) Pty Ltd owns a number of companies, including Indigo Sky Gems, in Namibia. This company and its subsidiary, Camelthorn Mining Ltd, have the concession to prospect for tourmaline at the Neu Schwaben mine in Namibia. In June 1998, Indigo Sky Gems were reported to have evicted local "small" miners - indigenous diggers operating alone or in small groups - who had been engaged in an illegal, but unchallenged free-for-all in their search for tourmaline, a semi-precious gem stone. At Neu Schwaben, the tourmaline equivalent of a gold rush had sucked in 1,000 diggers. Namibians were joined by miners from across southern Africa; somehow rumours of rich tourmaline deposits had spread as far as Zaire and Mozambique. One of the evicted miners, Lucky Metirapi, insisted that Indigo Sky Gems, its sister company Camelthorn Mining and Tony Buckingham were to blame for the squalor. And he accused the Namibian government - the former black liberation force the South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO), which took power in 1990 - of helping Indigo to move against the workers:
- "The company promised the government it would keep us on the mine to win its licence" he says. "But when they got it they came up with an excuse to evict us. And the government has done nothing to help."
None of the miners has met Tony Buckingham but they all know his name, and amazingly, given their resources and isolation, they have an Internet printout about his links with mercenary companies Executive Outcomes and Sandline International:
- "Madam [Mary Braid], can you get me a picture of Tony Buckingham?" asks Lucky. "So we can know who we are fighting. He has been to Namibia but never come to visit, though I'm sure he knows our situation."
In the leather-chaired lounge of the Kalahari Sands, one of Windhoek's top hotels, Russell Hay, an English businessman and director of Indigo and Camelthorn, shrugs off Namibian newspaper reports that the government is investigating allegations that his companies lied about their connections, through Tony Buckingham, with mercenary outfits.
- "The government is welcome to investigate," says Mr Hay, a long-time SWAPO supporter, who says his government connections have led to a host of company directorships. "We have nothing to hide."
Russell Hay also dismisses rumours that Sandline is to provide security at the troubled Neu Schwaben mine. Hay denies there are links between Indigo, Camelthorn and Sandline and EO, adding that EO has been "a force for good in Africa". For a man who championed the cause of black Namibia against oppressive white South Africa in the 1970s, he has an unsentimental view of the evicted workers, with whom he says there was never any promise to keep:
- "We are perfectly within our rights to kick them off," he says. "And to tell the deputy minister and the Mayor to stay away. Tourmaline was being smuggled out left, right and centre and we were offered the rubbish."
Indigo Sky Gems had promised to set up a US$1m (pounds 620,000) cutting and polishing plant in Windhoek to process gems from all over the country. The absence of such a plant in Namibia boosts the illegal flood of gems across its borders. The government was, therefore, delighted by Indigo's promised investment. Indigo's critics ask what has become of the plant. But Russell Hay says the Neu Schwaben mining dispute - a "PR disaster" - is preventing the company fulfilling its promise:
- "The long-term objective is to establish Namibia as the centre of the gem industry," says Mr Hay. "But that needs order."
In August 1998, there was deadlock. More than 400 miners in the roadside squat have been issued by Indigo with passes to mine. The foreign miners have gone. But Indigo is not buying from those still digging. Meanwhile, the government speaks with many voices. Jesaya Nyamu, the Deputy Minister for Mines and Energy, has said the government is investigating allegations that Indigo and Camelthorn provided misleading information about their links with EO and Sandline. But Hidipo Hamutenya, the Minister for Trade and Industry, has defended the companies, insisting it was unreasonable to expect them to honour their promise of a factory when workers were defying Namibia's mineral and mining laws. Hamutenya has said that when Indigo set up in Namibia, Tony Buckingham's "extra Namibian activities" were not a preoccupation. The government was reassured by his association with Ranger Oil in Namibia and his investment in the Soyu oil installation in Angola.
Tony Buckingham is an avid and accomplished sailor, competing on behalf of Great Britain on many occasions. He has won trophies at various regattas including Cowes Week and won the Commodore's Cup in 2000.
- "Will Tony Buckingham be the next Tiny Rowland?"
- "Hero's welcome for ex-Ambassador"
- "UK Government faces Sierra Leone grilling"
- "Tony Buckingham: murky past of a mercenary turned oil baron"
- "Heritage-Oil Directors"
- "Heritage Oil founder sells to Qatari sheikh in £1bn deal"
- "Libya: Lubricating the Oil Magnates With Blood"
- "Tony Buckingham: I wouldn't bend evidence to help a mate"
- "Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma"
- "The Vagabond King"
- "The Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds & Human Security" Ian Smillie, Lansana Gberie, Ralph Hazleton
- "DiamondWorks remembers its dead, in silence"
- "The Catholic Orangemen of Togo" pages 22-24
- "Dispute in Namibia: Local gemstone miners are evicted from their settlements by a company part-owned by Tony Buckingham, the British buccaneer businessman linked to the firm behind the arms-to-Africa scandal; Hope of treasure turns to dust for miners"
- "Regatta News"
- Licensed to Kill, Hired Guns in the War on Terror, by Robert Young Pelton (ISBN 1-4000-9781-9)
- Hunter Hammer and Heaven, Journeys to Three World's Gone Mad, by Robert Young Pelton (ISBN 1-58574-416-6)
- Michael Bilton "The Private War of Tumbledown Tim", London Sunday Times Magazine special investgiation and cover story, 2 July 2000.
- Mercenary boss evicts gem miners in Namibia
- Heritage Oil Corporation
- Tullow Oil
- The Wonga Coup from an African Perspective