Mittalgate envoy's rogue share deal lands him a £118,000 fine

Lakshmi Mittal

Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal

A pivotal figure in the ‘Mittalgate’ affair that rocked the Blair Government has been fined for insider dealing.

Former British diplomat Richard Ralph bought shares in a firm of which he was executive chairman days before it agreed to a takeover.

His £118,000 fine is the third highest to be levied by City watchdog the Financial Services Authority, which has been cracking down on market abuse.

Margaret Cole, director of enforcement at the FSA, said: ‘This sort of selfserving behaviour by experienced business professionals has the potential to damage confidence in financial markets.’

The FSA said Ralph bought shares in the Peruvian firm Monterrico Metals early
last year while he was actively involved in negotiations with the Chinese mining company Zijin.

In January last year, Ralph asked his friend Filip Boyen to buy shares worth £30,000 on his behalf, to hide his identity.

Boyen, who has been fined £82,000, also bought shares worth £77,000 for himself.

On February 5, Monterrico agreed to be taken over by Zijin and the shares soared. Boyen then sold the shares, making a windfall for both of them.

The FSA later began an investigation into suspicious trading, at which point both Boyen and Ralph came forward to confess their guilt.

The FSA said that if they had not, they would have faced a court and up to seven years in prison.

Ralph was ambassador to Romania at the time of the so-called ‘Steelgate’ cash for contracts affair in 2002.

He is thought to have been central in urging the then Prime Minister Tony Blair to lobby on behalf of Lakshmi Mittal, who was bidding to buy Sidex, Romania’s nationalised steel company.

It later emerged that Mittal gave Labour £125,000 just weeks before Blair asked his Romanian counterpart to agree the £300million takeover of Sidex.

The Government insisted the deal was good for the UK but it was later found that Mittal’s firm had fewer than 100 British employees.

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