Solomon Star | 5 December 2019
AUSTRALIAN mining firm Axiom Ltd has insisted the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Robson Djokovic attempted to solicit funds from them for his personal benefit.
“Around the time when Robson Djokovic became Chief of Staff, he approached Axiom’s Australia-based chairman,” a statement Axiom’s Community Affairs Manager Philemon Kesaka issued yesterday said.
“Upon their first meeting, Djokovic presented a document signed by Prime Minister Sogavare to confirm that Djokovic was on business for Sogavare,” the statement added.
“Djokovic was promoting his personal services to Axiom to deal with the Government including seeking money for himself.”
The statement said Honiara-based private legal practitioner Wilson Rano and a Fiji-based lawyer recommended that millions of dollars be paid to a company jointly controlled by Rano and Djokovic so that they could provide services to Axiom.
“Rano and Djokovic were the directors of this company at the time, including from 2015 and also when Djokovic became Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister.
“Later in meetings in Fiji, with Rano, a Fijian lawyer, Axiom’s Australian barrister and Ryan Mount, Rano wanted to provide services to Axiom claiming he would work with Djokovic and also that he would manage all landowner issues because he claimed he is the only person the Isabel landowners will listen to.
“Axiom refused to further engage any further with these parties because what they have proposed was not to Axiom’s ethical standards and nor did it satisfy Axiom’s legal and probity standards.
“Axiom also did not want to engage with Djokovic because he was a government official and obviously as a mining company, Axiom could not engage with a convicted criminal.
“In fact at the very start of the meeting, Axiom’s barrister made it very clear to Rano that Axiom could not engage him (Rano) because due diligence and investigations had revealed problems with his professional background, including allegations of forgery and his association with a convicted criminal Djokovic.
“Understandably Rano was upset at being told this.
“At no time has Rano ever represented Axiom.”
The statement said despite this farce and the ongoing attempts by Djokovic and the government to deny the San Jorge landowners their benefits and slow Axiom’s progress, the company maintains that it will always abide by the laws and will never deviate from doing what is legally right and important for the benefit of the landowners which the company has partnered with.
“Axiom is determined that it will continue to move towards a sustainable nickel mining project on San Jorge from which landowners can benefit and moreover is free from environmental disasters and a project that all Solomon Islanders can benefit from and be proud of.”
Earlier Rano confirmed meeting with Ryan Mount, and Mr Stratton (a well-known Australian Lawyer) representing Axiom Mining Company Limited at Nadi, Fiji in 2016.
“He said this was after Axiom KB Ltd was licking its wounds from the SMM v Axiom Case which the Court of Appeal dismissed both Axiom’s Licence and SMM’s licence and found that the Commissioner of Lands with the help of Axiom KB Ltd and Ryan Mount illegally registered a lease over Takata/Kolosori tenement.
He claimed the meeting in Fiji was purposely to come up with a legislation in which they will try and push through Parliament to secure the San Jorge and Takata Tenements for Axiom Mining Co Ltd.
“It is an idea which Mount was championing in light of his position that the Mines and Minerals Act simply failed to recognize investors like Axiom and how Axiom is the only company capable of properly mining San Jorge and Takata.
“As a professional, my position has always been that I would be willing to do all legal means possible to do the work in consultation with Mr. Stanton and Axiom if Axiom is prepared to put its money where its mouth is.
“I drafted a consulting agreement between Axiom Mining Co Ltd and myself and stated that my consulting fees is AUD$700,000 and payable on installments upon achievement of each stage of the proposed legislation.
“Of course in doing so I would have needed the assistance of people I trust and who can help in pushing these agendas forward.
“I remember discussing this with Djokovic who at the time was a freelance consultant and was not yet employed by Solomon Islands Government.
“Because of his skills and connections, Djokovic would have been instrumental.
“By the end of October 2016, Djokovic joined the Government as Chief of Staff and has advised that he could no longer be involved.
“Because Axiom could not afford this the matter we could not take the matter further.
“It is not, however, because Mount discovered that Djokovic was a partner in Echelon Consulting Ltd,” Rano said.