MYSTERY OF MILLIONAIRE GOLD MINE BOSS’S DEATH

Identity of gold mining executive who died at Keil estate revealed at last

Kebble - 2 Helenslee Place

A detective locking the garage doors at the £1 million mansion in which Mark Wellesley-Wood lived in leafy Kirktonhill.  Picture by Bill Heaney  

Mark Wellesley-Wood, the financier and gold mine boss who was known as the pinstripe bandit whose death at Keil estate was centre of huge drama.

Investigation by Bill Heaney

Residents in Dumbarton’s exclusive Manor Kingdom estate in leafy Kirktonhill have been preoccupied by the identity of the millionaire mystery man whose death brought a Line of Duty-like drama to this sleepy corner of the town.

Houses in the estate, which was once owned by Sir William MacKinnon, a philanthropist who gifted his imposing grey sandstone manor a century ago to become Keil School and educate privately the sons of Argyllshire lairds and farmers, cost around £1 million each when they were built after the school closed ten years ago.

And the man whose sudden death led to the dramatic major incident-type response of speeding police vehicles and ambulances with blue lights flashing and sirens shrieking at around 3.15pm on Thursday, April 25, was living in the most expensive house of all of them.

Rumours swept Dumbarton that there had been a murder in Kirktonhill until Police Scotland issued this brief statement, which said they were called to a house at 2 Helenslee Place “following the sudden death of a 67-year-old man.

“There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

The person who died was not identified by the police, but the Dumbarton Democrat can reveal he was Mark Wellesley-Wood, widely known in southern Africa as “the pinstripe bandit”.

Wellesley-Wood was a controversial figure in the £ multi-billion finance and gold mining industry and the person who brought about the downfall of, two of SA’s most notorious corporate crooks, Brett Kebble and his father, Roger

The Democrat discovered this week that Mr Wellesley-Wood’s death was not recorded at the Registrar’s Office in Dumbarton, the town where he died, but unusually in Giffnock, a wealthy residential area in East Renfrewshire. The police have still not given any indication of how he died, but it is suspected there were guns in the house.

His body was taken from the scene of his death in Dumbarton by private ambulance.  

Both dead from gunshot wounds – Roger Kebble (left) and his son, Brett, big names in the gold mining business.

Uniformed police officers, detectives from Police Scotland and forensic personnel in overall white suits and gloves formed a large security presence at Keil, which has spectacular views of Dumbarton Rock and the River Clyde.

One resident of the estate did not know the identity of the couple who had moved into the luxury, multi-roomed house.

Mr Wellesley-Wood and his wife, Shona, were said not to socialise with anyone there, or even mix with them on a neighbourly basis.

Another neighbour, who did not wish to be identified, said: “It was like something out of the television drama Line of Duty. The police were everywhere and there were lots of them.

“There was lots of activity and the last officer only left on Saturday evening, 48 hours after they arrived.”

The Wellesley-Woods were said to have moved in only a short time ago and the impression given was they were renting the house until work on a new house which they were having built for them was finished.

One neighbour said she was alarmed when the police arrived in large numbers.

She told me: “It’s looking like there is a murder in my street. The police are apparently going to be there all weekend and a different department are going to be joining them later.

“The neighbours down there said they hadn’t seen him around for a couple of weeks”

The smart villa at 2 Helenslee Place was purchased in 2009 for £850,000.

The resident we spoke with added: “No one knows anything about the family who live there, not even their next door neighbours.

“They are a mystery. There were ambulances there and loads of men in white overall suits.

“Then a private ambulance came about ten o’clock at night and took the body away.

“The Kirktonhill residents’ page on social media has been wild with speculation as to who the couple might be.”

The neighbour added: “The CID are there and are taking away bags of blood-stained turf from the garden. It’s all very strange.”

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Then, in South Africa on April 30, a headline in one newspaper said: “Kebble nemesis, Mark Wellesley-Wood, passes away suddenly.”

Journalist  David McKay wrote: “Mark Wellesley-Wood, the controversial mining CEO and financier who was long the nemesis of the late Kebbles, Roger and Brett, has suddenly passed away.”

Brett Kebble, 36, was a South African mining magnate with close links to factions in the ruling political party, the African National Congress.

An investigation followed to determine the whereabouts of some R2-billion-worth [£1 billion] of Randgold Resources shares, which Randgold & Exploration could not easily account for and which had either been loaned out or sold.

Married to Ingrid in 1990, the couple had four children, but Brett was shot dead near a bridge over the M1 in Abbotsford, Johannesburg, in 2005.

An autopsy performed three days after the murder found that the seven bullets in him were of a rare, low-velocity type used by bodyguards and security operatives.

The purpose of such bullets, which require a specially adapted pistol, was to hit assassins and terrorists without passing through their bodies and hitting bystanders or hostages.

Businessman Glenn Agliotti was arrested in connection with the murder.

Agliotti, a convicted drug-dealer, was a close personal friend of former South African Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi.

It was alleged that Agliotti had strong links with organised crime and racketeering.

In 2008, the National Prosecuting Authority officially recognised that Kebble orchestrated his own murder.

In 2010, his death was the subject of a high-profile court case, with a number of state witnesses admitting complicity.

However, in November 2010, Agliotti was acquitted when the court ruled that the state had not made a prima facie case against him.

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KEFI Minerals, a UK-listed company of which Wellesley-Wood was chairman, announced Wellesley-Wood’s death with this statement: “Wellesley-Wood was a gentleman of the highest integrity and discipline, a true professional who made a great contribution to the industry internationally over decades and to our company in recent years.”

Another company with which he was involved, Tristar Resources, said it had learned “the shocking news” of Wellesley-Wood’s death.

It acknowledged Wellesley-Wood as “… a deeply knowledgeable and wise leader”.

Wellesley-Wood, a former rugby union player, burst on to the South African mining industry as non-executive chairman of Durban Roodepoort Deep.

Less than a year later he ousted the person who hired him – Roger Kebble – after claiming Kebble had committed fraud in the R123 million [£62 million] purchase of the Rawas gold mine in Indonesia.

Thus began a prolonged period of hostility between Wellesley-Wood and the Kebbles that extended to the son, Brett Kebble, the latter infamously referring to Wellesley-Wood as the pin-striped bandit from London.

Wellesley-Wood enjoyed some financial success with Durban Roodepoort Deep, which he restructured and branded as ‘the Roodepoort Rocket’ owing to its leverage to dollar gold price increases.

During one particularly lucrative quarter, he played Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ as analysts and media took their auditorium seats.

In the end, however, the momentum could not be sustained. Wellesley-Wood retired from DRDGold in 2006.

Trading off his self-imposed moniker of “Mr Fixit”, Wellesley-Wood returned to southern Africa on at least two occasions, in 2013 as the chairman of Mwana Africa, a gold and base metals company in Zimbabwe.

Wellesley-Wood’s appointment at Mwana was despite him saying at the time that he was “officially retired” and had no full-time working objectives.

In typical Wellesley-Wood fashion, he left the company amid fireworks only a year later.

Commenting on the death of Roger Kebble in 2015, Wellesley-Wood said: “He was a character and the world actually needs more characters like Roger” – a description that could well be imputed to Wellesley-Wood himself.

News 24 reported that Wellesley-Wood had recently bought a house in Scotland where he intended to truly embrace retirement. He is survived by his wife Shona, three children, and one grandchild.

So far as the Kebbles are concerned, a Cape Town newspaper reported Roger Kebble’s death “at the age of 75 in an apparent suicide in the leafy, upmarket suburb of Bishopscourt, Cape Town.

Kebble SA police“Western Cape police confirmed that the body of a man in his late seventies was found with a gunshot wound to his head on Tuesday. An inquest was opened.”

A reliable source told Netwerk24 reporter Maygene de Wee that two suicide notes were found in the car.

Meanwhile, Kebble’s second son Guy told EWN that his father had been unwell for some time and felt as though he was a burden.

Nearly ten years ago, Roger’s mining magnate son, Brett Kebble, was shot dead in Melrose, Johannesburg.

Both father and son were found dead in their respective silver Mercedes Benz limos.

After an extended trial in which he pleaded not guilty, Glenn Agliotti was discharged of Brett Kebble’s murder and other charges.  Former security chief for the Kebbles, Clinton Nassif, had testified that he helped orchestrate Brett Kebble’s “assisted suicide”.

According to the Mail and Guardian, he also told the court that Roger Kebble had known about the plan beforehand.  Roger Kebble was reportedly not well enough to testify because of a heart condition, but told the newspaper: “I honestly cannot imagine a scenario where Brett could have said to these guys that things were getting too much for him so he wanted out and the best option was to pump seven bullets into him.  I can’t see Brett agreeing to that. He was a fighter.”

He also told the newspaper he believed his son was killed because he wanted to come clean about various wrongdoings he was involved in.

Roger Kebble was, according to a profile in Bloomberg Business and the JCI website, involved in a number of very public controversies.

In 1994, he joined Durban Roodepoort Deep as chairperson – the mining group that gave rise, among others, to Harmony Gold.

One of the most public fights in Kebble’s career was with Mark Wellesley-Wood.

When Kebble’s fraud case was struck from the roll of Johannesburg regional court in January 2005 (he was out on bail at the time after his arrest in November 2002), he still claimed the charge laid against him by DRD stemmed from a boardroom dispute with Wellesley-Wood, his successor as head of the mining operation.

According to the charge sheet, Kebble faced 62 counts of fraud relating to allegedly inflated invoices issued to Durban Roodepoort Deep, on which DRD paid Skilled Labour Brokers.

The spat with Wellesley-Wood also resulted in Wellesley-Wood’s work permit being cancelled – allegedly at Kebble’s request.

The fight with Wellesley-Wood was not the only one in Kebble’s murky dealings, yet interviewers over the years have described him as ever courteous and shrewd, and said that he treated everyone the same.

In interviews in later years, as the rift between father and son became more apparent, Roger said he regretted not having a proper relationship with his son.

It was speculated that the suave, ambitious younger Kebble’s approach to business might have proved too far removed from his father’s.

Roger stepped away from all his mining involvements in the months following Brett’s death.  In the end, bad health, and grief for a son who he believed to the end was murdered, might have brought the mining magnate to his knees.

Then it was reported that Roger Kebble had shot himself.

The Kebble family had already come through one tragedy when Brett Kebble was found to have died in an assisted suicide on September 27, 2005.

Kebble committed fraud involving about R2bn [£1 billion] and dished out some of the money to political parties and influential politicians.

He was shot dead in an apparent “assisted suicide” carried out by self-confessed hitmen Mikey Schultz, Faizel Smith and Nigel McGurk.

After that, a group of European-based minority shareholders led by Ian Dearing had called for an Extraordinary General Meeting of Mwana Africa Plc to take place in June.

They were seeking to remove four independent non-executive directors from the board and replace them with others, including Mark Wellesley-Wood, in what seemed like a storm in a tea cup in a turbulent industry.

The outfit calling itself “Concerned Shareholders Group” seemed bona fide, save for the fact that one of its proposed directors was a former chairman of Mwana, who had unanimously been voted off the board.

Wellesley-Wood, the shortlisted director, had been appointed chairman in September 2013 with Mwana Africa CEO Kalaa Mpinga at the time praising him for his “considerable operational and corporate experience”, which he said would assist the firm in delivering value from its assets.

Then five months later, the Mwana board unanimously voted for the removal of Wellesley-Wood.

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In a circular, the company had this to say about his appointment at the time: “After a short period of time, it became apparent that Mark Wellesley-Wood did not fit with the corporate culture of the group, nor did he share the strategic vision for the company, and in February 2014 was unanimously asked to resign by the board.

“Following this unanimous decision, the board does not believe reappointing Wellesley-Wood to the board to be in the best interest of the company.”

Although he denied talk of having been involved in a surreptitious hostile takeover, his comments to miningmx.com, an industry journal, could lend credence to such speculation.

Such accusations would not be fresh against the man, who was once described by the late South Africa mining magnate Brett Kebble as a “pin-striped bandit”.

Wellesley-Wood said: “I was approached by certain minority shareholders about three months ago asking me to offer my services to the company again. I want to get involved once more because it’s unfinished business regarding corporate governance, oversight and control. Certain issues around my removal were irregular.”

After his abrupt removal from the board, he said: “There was a disagreement over strategy and that was it.”

Asked about his plans at the time, he said: “I am officially retired and have no professional full-time objectives.”

A year later, he came out of retirement, but assured people: “This is not about revenge. This is about focusing on the company’s operations and shareholder value,” he told the publication.

After he was hired by the Kebbles — Roger and the late Brett — of South Africa to run DRD, a Johannesburg stock exchange-listed gold mining group in 2000, Wellesley-Wood immediately courted controversy for fighting his bosses for five years in a messy corporate brawl that saw Roger being axed from DRD and spending a night in a cell over a fraud charge involving R6,4 million [£3.2 million].

According to reports, Roger accused Wellesley-Wood of snatching control of DRD through “a devious and highly questionable strategy”, as well as delaying the listing of Randgold Resources, a UK and US-listed entity. He held the position of both executive chairman and CEO after the fallout with the Kebbles.

Bret was mysteriously gunned down in Johannesburg in 2005.

In March this year, Wellesley-Wood joined the board of Tri-Star Resources as non-executive chairman.

According to the AIM listed firm, Wellesley-Wood had been working as a consultant to Tri-Star since November 2014 and had been involved in all areas of the company’s activities including, in particular, the Oman Roaster Project..

It is not clear if Wellesley-Wood had a role in the board restructuring there.

While Collins congratulated him on his appointment, such niceties are normal in the corporate world where unceremoniously fired executives get flattering send offs in announcements and newspaper adverts, which read out like a happily ever after tale.

For a man once called a “corporate bandit” by his former boss, the upcoming EGM slated for June 9 was expected to judge if he was as “devious” as he has been described.

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