TORONTO (CP) -- The board of directors for mining company Bre-X Minerals Ltd. found out on the same day that company geologist Michael de Guzman died, and that assay results had come up empty of gold.
That led the head of Freeport McMoRan Gold and Copper Inc., Bre-X's new partner, to suspect that samples from the Busang property in the Indonesian jungle had been tampered with, an Ontario court heard Tuesday.
The evidence was part of the continuing insider trading trial of Bre-X chief geologist John Felderhof.
Felderhof has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of insider trading and misleading investors. He is accused of selling $84 million worth of Bre-X stock between April and October 1996, while having information not disclosed to investors.
Bre-X collapsed in late March 1997 after what was thought to be a massive gold deposit in Indonesia was exposed as a hoax.
The directors heard at a March 19, 1997 meeting that de Guzman was ''reported missing from a helicopter,'' according to minutes of the meeting, which were heard in court.
Later, the group was told that assay results taken by Texas-based Freeport-McMoRan were ''blank.''
''After a discussion with Mr. Felderhof, neither Mr. Walsh nor Mr. Felderhof could think of any apparent reason for the results,'' the minutes read.
David Walsh was Bre-X CEO.
Rolando Francisco, Bre-X's chief financial officer, called Jim Bob Moffett, chief executive of Freeport, to give him the news of de Guzman's death, he reported to the meeting.
Moffet was ''predisposed to believe that there had been tampering or salting of the company's assays,'' according to the minutes.
Moffett believed the dud results should be made public, the March 19 minutes showed.
The court has previously heard that Walsh said in a news release March 24 that he had ''absolute confidence'' in Bre-X's drilling.
Three days later, an independent consultant retained by Bre-X's board confirmed there was no gold at Busang, a report that was disclosed to investors.
Though the minutes of the board meetings had previously been entered as evidence in the trial, it was the first time the court had been taken through the documents in detail.
The trial, which resumed Monday following a two-month hiatus, is expected to continue for most of this year.