<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Al Giordano

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Drummond Faces Dutch and Colombian Investigations of Colombia Coal, Oil Ventures

Suit Claims Company Launders Profits, Works with Death Squads, and Destroys Competition Thanks to “Symbiotic Relationship” with the Uribe Administration

By Stephen Flanagan Jackson
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

October 14, 2006

AMSTERDAM: A barrage of lawsuits and international investigations awaits an Alabama-based multinational, which does business in the Netherlands and in Colombia.

“We received a good reception from the Dutch congressman concerning our request for the government and Foreign Affairs Minister of The Netherlands to look into our charges involving the Drummond Coal Co. claim – jumping our Colombia oil concession, and the Colombian government framing my brother, Henk (Hendrik van Bilderbeek),” said Albert van Bilderbeek.

Drummond’s president and CEO is Birmingham’s Garry N. Drummond, a wealthy Alabama businessman and generous political campaign contributor – also a former trustee of the University of Alabama. One of Drummond’s largest customers in the US is the Southern Company, which purchases Drummond’s Colombian coal imported through the Port of Mobile for its electric power plants.

Van Bilderbeek is one of the two Dutch brothers who had a potentially lucrative Colombia oil concession stripped from him and his older sibling and investors. Recently in October, van Bilderbeek personally dispatched his grievance to The Hague. The scenic, historic Dutch center of government and international affairs sits some 25 miles southwest of Amsterdam in this table-flat, water-laden Low Country, one of Europe’s most prosperous niches.

A Colombian lawmaker – from the district in Colombia where Drummond operates the world’s largest open pit coal mine – also attended the meeting at The Hague with Representative Hans van Baalen of a Parliament foreign affairs committee, and Jochem de Groot, a foreign policy advisor for the Dutch Parliament. The Colombian legislator pointed out that much of Drummond’s Colombia coal transports throughout Europe after arriving via the nearby Rotterdam port.

Miguel Duran told van Baalen and de Groot that the Colombian Congress is investigating Drummond’s overall activities in Colombia and would also investigate whether or not special favors were accorded Drummond in its takeover of the Llanos Oil concession “in record time.”

Duran, who represents the department (state) of Cesar in northeast Colombia – site of the coal mines and the untapped oil fields in question – reported to the Dutch solon that “in Colombia there is great concern that Drummond may be underreporting its coal production – and subsequently dodging its full royalties due Colombia – by laundering its gross revenues through the Cayman Islands.” Duran also mentioned that Drummond’s “sweetheart deals with the Colombian government – especially on a railroad concession to transport the coal to the Puerto Drummond Caribbean port – as well as “influence peddling and bribes” are subjects of the Colombian Congress investigation.

“The report on Drummond should be ready in November,” said the veteran, 39-year-old politician, a lawyer by training and trade.

Albert van Bilderbeek alleges, “…a set-up which involves the Colombian presidency, the Colombian president’s top aide, and Drummond to take our Llanos Oil mineral rights and pass it on to Drummond.” These charges are substantiated in a detailed affidavit obtained by a van Bilderbeek lawyer in Colombia. The younger van Bilderbeek also charges, “They arrested Henk on false charges of money laundering for the paramilitary and drug dealers also, and have incarcerated him for two years without a trial or bond or even specific charges.”

Albert van Bilderbeek presented to van Baalen certified testimony of a Colombian witness claiming the DAS (Department of Administrative Security) – Colombia’s equivalent of the US FBI and controlled by the Colombian president – orchestrated the framing of Henk (van Bilderbeek) and Llanos, and that the DAS fed incriminating and untrue information about Llanos to the US DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). That key witness, Rafael Garcia, is currently in a Bogotá prison facing charges of manipulating the DAS computer system as former DAS director of information technology. Garcia, fearing for his life, is also a key and controversial witness in another case – a civil charge alleging wrongful deaths in a US federal court in Birmingham – levied against Drummond Co. in the 2001 assassinations of three of its Colombian labor union employees. The US judge has sealed Garcia’s deposition in which he maintains that he saw a Drummond payoff to the “Bloque Norte” paramilitary in Valledupar, Colombia for two of the three brutal killings. A jury trial is anticipated in November for that tort case in Birmingham, Ala. in which the Colombian labor union, SINTRAMIENERGETICA, is suing Drummond for wrongful deaths under the obscure 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act of the US.

“I want to help Dutch nationals get a fair shake and justice,” said van Baalen, referring to the van Bilderbeek brothers’ predicament. “I will ask the Dutch government to take this issue up with the Colombian government.”

Speaking after the meeting with the MP (Member of Parliament) at The Hague, Albert van Bilderbeek said he is now planning three lawsuits. “We will file in Colombian court to request Henk’s release or at least to let him out of prison on bail or on house arrest,” he revealed, adding, “We will also sue the Colombian government in Colombia in an effort to have our mineral rights restored or to receive compensation.

“As for the first lawsuit we filed in April, 2005 against Drummond in the US, we will re-file in a US court against Drummond for racketeering in a scheme involving the Colombian president (Alvaro Uribe), and his top aide, Fabio Echeverri, and Ecopetrol, the Colombian mineral-rights agency,” concluded van Bilderbeek. “And don’t forget, Garry N. Drummond, the CEO, himself has admitted that Echeverri worked in Colombia for Drummond Co. for some 15 years.”

“ I, myself, fear for my own life if I go to Colombia now,” said van Bilderbeek, “and I would probably be arrested and thrown in prison with my brother.”

According to van Bilderbeek, the Danish government has banned Denmark ports from receiving Drummond’s Colombian coal in response to questions surrounding the unsolved murders of the Colombian union leaders. Van Bilderbeek said he would welcome similar action by the Dutch unions and Dutch government.

Van Bilderbeek is a tenacious, diminutive Dutchman. Van Bilderbeek said his Jewish family suffered oppression under the Nazi occupation and will not back down from what he terms as strong-arm tactics. Van Bilderbeek is majority owner and executive of the Llanos Oil Exploration Ltd. Outfit, which claims the Colombian oil field with a billion barrels potential. Plus, Drummond, since receiving the former Llanos concession in December, 2003 near its La Loma coal mines, has discovered a lucrative natural gas field in the former Llanos Oil area – now Drummond’s bailiwick which stretches for some 250,000 acres in Las Nieves (The Snows) region near the border of oil-rich Venezuela.

Van Bilderbeek charges Drummond with a “symbiotic and cooperative” relationship with both the Colombian military and rightwing paramilitary at the Drummond Co.’s $500 million coal investment. The military connection — including payoffs – is validated directly by Garry N. Drummond, who acknowledges at least a half million dollars in “stipends” to Colombian military and police personnel. The jailed Garcia – the “Colombia Canary” – affirms he is an eyewitness and ear-witness to Drummond’s top man in Colombia, Augusto Jiminez, dealing with the paramilitary and its notorious right-wing death squads.

Drummond officials and lawyers vehemently deny claims that Drummond pays paramilitary troops in Colombia or was involved in any wrongdoing to obtain the oil concession or was complicit in the 2001 murders of its three Colombia union leaders. In fact, president Uribe and Mr. Drummond met recently in New York City and Uribe issued a statement saying Garcia, the key witness, is lying because Drummond’s Jiminez was out of Colombia at the time Garcia claims to have witnessed the paramilitary “payoff” meeting before the Colombian union killings. In the Llanos case, Colombian government officials characterize the van Bilderbeek arguments regarding losing its oil rights as sour grapes and retort that the Llanos executives are responsible for the problems which led to the jerking of the oil concession.

Stephen Flanagan Jackson is associate editor of LatinAmericanPost.com of Bogotá, Colombia and associate professor of Journalism at Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Ala. Contact sfjackson10@hotmail.com.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America