NEW YORK -- A federal jury found Texas oilman Nelson Bunker Hunt and his two brothers guilty Saturday of illegally manipulating the world silver market and ruled they must pay more than $130 million to a Peruvian government mining company.
The Peruvian company, Minpeco, S.A., had charged in a lawsuit that it lost $150 million when the value of its silver futures contracts fell because of the scheme in which Hunt and his brothers, William Herbert and Lamar, were aided by two Arab Sheiks, a Lebanese businessman and a brother-in-law of the Saudi Arabian crown prince.
The jury was stuck in the civil trial for three days only on the issue of the amount of damages to be awarded to those hurt by the conspiracy and came up with a verdict after six days of deliberations.
The jurors announced that they found all but Lamar Hunt guilty of violating racketeering laws in rigging the world silver market in 1979. He was found guilty with the others, however, of violating fraud, commodities and anti-trust laws.
Originally there were 23 defendants in the case, including the Hunts, but six have settled out of court.
Minpeco settled before the trial began in February with E.F. Hutton & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co., Prudential-Bache Securities Inc., and AML Futures Inc., which is out of business but was part of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Inc., for $64.7 million.
It was the first time that a jury determined the Hunts had manipulated the silver market. No criminal charges were ever filed in the case, but other civil case were pending.
There were reports during the trial that the brothers offered to settle with Minpeco for $20 million, but the Peruvians turned them down.
In addition to the Hunts, those found liable in the trial were International Metals Investment Co., a company controlled by Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt and Mahmoud Fustook, a Saudi Arabian businessman and brother-in-law of the Saudi Arabian crown prince.
The jury of three men and three women awarded more than $130 million to Minpeco, S.A., a Peruvian government-owned mining company.
Minpeco said the figure came to $134 million while the Hunts claimed it was $132.6 million. The difference in calculations of the damages came because of a provision under federal law that requires them to be determined by trebling the financial losses involved.
The Lamar brothers quickly left the courtroom without comment after the awards were announced.
'Disappointed,' answered their lead attorney, Paul Curran, when asked for reaction. 'We disagree with the jury.'
When asked what he thought the damages amounted to he replied, 'by our own calculations, $132.6 milllion.'
Mark Cymrot, lead attorney for Minpeco, figured damages at $134 milllion.
Asked if he thought Minpeco would see any of the award, Cymrot replied, 'We think they (the Hunts) are wealthy men and we should be able to collect' from them.
The brothers are among the heirs of the eccentric billionaire H.L Hunt who died in 1974, leaving them a fortune in trust funds and oil properties that was crushed by the 1980 silver crisis they helped create.
They claimed to have lost $1.1 billion and have filed for bankruptcy.
The family, prosperous but be frugal, had been commuting to the federal courthouse by subway. On Monday, one of the brothers was spotted distributing subway tokens to other family members.