Sierra Rutile pursuer Gerald Group hits turbulence as image reveals Sierra Leonean President with jet

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio and entourage leaving the plane.
Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio and entourage leaving the plane. Credit: Twitter/X

The major metals trader hoping to seize control of Iluka Resources spinout Sierra Rutile has decried “doctored photos”, after a picture of Sierra Leone’s President disembarking a mysterious private plane surfaces.

President Julius Maada Bio and his entourage have been snapped with a jet in the background that bears a registration linked to an address in the US state of Connecticut.

It is the same address as the location of a Gerald Group office.

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The photos were said to be taken last month as President Bio visited the US. The front of what appears to be an identical jet can be seen in images posted by the official social media channels of President Bio’s office.

Sierra Leone's President leaving for Brussells last year in an image taken from his official Facebook accoun
Sierra Leone's President leaving for Brussells last year in an image taken from his official Facebook accoun Credit: Facebook/Meta

A reputable jet spotting website also hosts an image of the plane with its registration clearly marked and country identification visible, displaying the flags of Sierra Leone and the US.

A spokeswoman for Gerald Group did not confirm or deny if the jet in question belonged to the company, instead providing a statement on broader “market rumours”.

“We have already confirmed these are nothing but fanciful fabrications emerging on social media and being repeated in a few sections of the Sierra Leone press, also denied by other parties,” she said.

“We are again aware of the social media press making false statements and circulating erroneous information with doctored photos on social media.”

Last week, Gerald Group denied it was under investigation for alleged money laundering in the country, contrary to suggestions in articles on websites and social media channels purporting to be Sierra Leonean-based news outlets.

“We are not aware of any such investigations and the Gerald Group is in strict compliance with UK Anti Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA),” it said at the time.

The US FCPA was set up to prevent American citizens or companies providing money, or anything of monetary value, to any foreign official for the purpose of securing business.

Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio and entourage leaving the plane.
Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio and entourage leaving the plane. Credit: Twitter/X

An entity associated with Gerald Group is trying to storm the gates of Sierra Rutile with a hostile $40 million all-cash takeover offer, which was lobbed last month.

Subiaco-based Sierra Rutile is currently embroiled in a dispute with the government of Sierra Leone, essentially over the cut the West African nation’s government should receive from its rutile mining operations.

Gerald Group and its subsidiary – Marampa Mines – have an established footprint in Sierra Leone after navigating their own challenges with the regime in the West African country.

In 2021, Marampa was locked in a stoush with the Sierra Leonean government over its eponymous iron ore mine, but the rift was resolved after a 10 per cent stake in the mine and a $US20m cash payment was conceded to the government.

Gerald Group has over 200 employees with trading hubs spread across Europe, North America and Asia.

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