Grant Thornton confirms Oryx withdrawal

The withdrawal follows weekend speculation that the Foreign Office had put pressure on the LSE to pull the plug on Oryx’s ambitions amid mounting concerns over the company’s diamond operation in war torn Congo. The firm said it would continue to act as auditor to the controversial firm.

Accountancy Age last month revealed Grant Thornton’s role as nominated advisors to the listing and raised the issue of what role ethics should play in accountancy and professional services.

In a prepared statement, Grant Thornton said: ‘We have had discussions with the regulatory authorities over the last few weeks, the most recent of which took place late on the afternoon of Friday 9 June. These discussions have lead us to conclude that Grant Thornton could no longer act if the acquisition of Oryx Natural Resources were to proceed.’

The statement confirmed that the firm informed Oryx of ‘our decision and the reasons for it immediately on Friday’.

The statement noted that as nominated adviser, the firm’s primary responsibility is to the LSE.

‘As such we have a responsibility to maintain the reputation and integrity of the market,’ it stated.

Caymen Island-registered Oryx was due to join the alternative investment market tomorrow through a reverse takeover of listed company Petra Diamonds and would have reverted to its Oryx name after listing.

Petra shareholders agreed at a special general meeting held at Grant Thornton’s London office to put the listing on hold due to the ‘rather exceptional circumstances’.

Chairman of Petra Diamonds and managing director of Oryx, Adonis Pouroulis, said: ‘In the short time that has been available over the weekend, I have tried to obtain as much information as I can of the reasons for the position in which Grant Thornton found themselves late on Friday afternoon. I am afraid that I am unable to say that I have since then learned much more than I knew at that time.’

He added that Grant Thornton’s resignation as nominated advisor to Petra would seriously jeopardise ‘possibly terminally’ the future of Petra’s existing listing on the alternative investment market.

Foreign Office pressure to curb diamond trading, which is funding wars across Africa, stepped up last month following British armed intervention in Sierra Leone.

Last week Grant Thornton claimed it was satisfied that Oryx had fulfilled appropriate criteria for admission to the alternative investment market.

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