Jailed British tycoon fights for stake in Pakistan refinery

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 7:00:18 by



KARACHI: 

Even from a Dubai prison cell Ryan Cornelius is fighting for his ownership of Indus Refinery Limited (IRL), which has been dormant for years and a key reason behind incarceration of the once high-flying British businessman.

Recently, Cornelius got a stay order from the Sindh High Court against any sale of IRL’s equipment and land, arguing he was cheated out of his majority stake in the project.

Cornelius’s Bahrain-based PSI Energy Holding Company was the principal investor in IRL, a 93,000-barrel-per-day oil refinery, which was to be set up in Karachi.

According to court documents, Cornelius says he owned 80% shares in IRL. But on May 28, 2008, his partners held a meeting of shareholders and passed a resolution allocating 1,750 shares for each share they held.

This happened at a time when Cornelius was in confinement on charges of misusing a 1 million loan obtained from Dubai Islamic Bank.

“How could he vote when he was in jail? So basically from being a majority shareholder who had 160,000 of the 200,000 outstanding shares, his stake shrank to just 0.75%,” said a lawyer associated with the case.

IRL’s current Chairman and CEO Sohail Shamsi claims he holds 87% stake in the refinery. He recently told The Express Tribune that he was in talks with German investors who wanted to use IRL’s land and permits for setting up an even bigger refinery.

Shamsi has all along maintained that the IRL project sank because of global financial crisis and poor security situation in Pakistan. Over the years, he has tried to woo Chinese and Arab investors but in vain. He was not immediately available for comment on the case filed in the court.

Cornelius and six co-accused were charged by Dubai authorities for diverting trade financing worth 1 million to extravagant projects. Cornelius insists he did nothing wrong and part of it was used to finance relocation of the refinery.

His trial has been widely reported in the international press, often to highlight the slow legal proceedings in which hundreds of investors were stuck after property prices crashed in Dubai.

Shamsi says IRL was registered in 2004 after he and two of his foreign partners bought Oakville Refinery from Petro-Canada, which shut down the old plant as it prepared to meet more stringent sulphur content regulations.

What followed was a massive operation as the refinery was dismantled pipe-by-pipe. Around 100,000 cubic metres of components were tagged and numbered to be shipped to Karachi.

It was to be reinstalled along the National Highway, 21 kilometres from Fotco oil terminal and close to the cross-country White Oil Pipeline. IRL has 316 acres of land in the area.

By June 2007 when three shipments had already arrived with 65% of the plant and equipment, the project got stuck in limbo.

“We have invested 5 million in the project so far. Basically, all my money has gone in this,” Shamsi had said in the interview.

The rest of the equipment is stuck in Canada and some of it has been auctioned to settle dues owed by IRL to transporters and other service providers.

SHC has set October 9 as the next date of hearing.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2013.

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