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The BBC's Doug Morris reports from Newcastle
"A licence will have to be obtained"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 November, 1999, 02:38 GMT
Mine 'saved from closure'
generic miner The deep mine pit employs 485 people

Mining company RJB hopes to sell the last deep mine in the north east of England to a controversial businessman, who has been linked with an indicted Serbian war criminal.

If the 10m sale goes ahead, 485 jobs will be saved at the Ellington colliery in Northumberland.

But Italian businessman and politician Giovanni Di Stefano has still to get a licence from the Coal Authority, which needs to be convinced that he has the financial resources to run the mine.

It has also emerged that he faces arrest if he enters the UK, on an outstanding warrant concerning investigations five years ago into alleged fraud concerning a Midlands hotel group.

If the deal did go ahead, Mr Di Stefano would export coal from the mine to Africa and Europe, especially Yugoslavia.

Mr Di Stefano, who has homes in Italy and eastern Europe, was said to be too unwell to comment on the arrest warrant revelations.

But his son Michael Stefano, speaking from his home in Rome, said the family was unaware of the warrant and would challenge it. He added that it did not affect his father's wish to buy the colliery.

Closure planned for February

RJB Mining said it was unable to comment on Mr Di Stefano's arrest warrant.

But it said: "We will continue to follow the relevant legal process in which we have to satisfy ourselves on a number of different factors.

"What we are looking at is a commercial transaction between two companies and we will be taking advice over this."

If the sale does not go through, the pit is scheduled to close next February.

Northumberland NUM secretary Ian Lavery said: "I hope the Coal Authority will examine Mr Di Stefano's application and make a decision as soon as possible bearing in mind the position the men at Ellington Colliery find themselves in."

Serbian controversy

Mr Di Stefano has said he is friends with the Serbian war criminal Zelkjo Raznatovic, known as Arkan, and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

He sparked controversy last year when he tried to buy stakes in Celtic and Dundee football clubs.

The Scottish Premier League later investigated Mr Di Stefano regarding his bids.

The money which Mr Di Stefano has reportedly offered RJB Mining comes through his American-based company Sandhurst Assets Corporation, which has interests in the airline and construction industries.

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See also:
01 Nov 99 |  The Economy
Pit closure confirmed
01 Nov 99 |  The Company File
Coal boss's plea as mine closes
19 Jan 99 |  The Company File
Black day for historic pit

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