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Faberge owner Gemfields taken to court over alleged abuses in Mozambique
* Gemfields says will vigorously defend itself
* Gemfields owned by Pallinghurst
* Case may take months to be heard
LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - Law firm Leigh Day has filed a
case with London's High Court against Gemfields, the miner that
owns jewellery-maker Faberge, saying it represents more than 100
Mozambicans who have allegedly suffered human rights abuses, the
lawyers said on Monday.
Gemfields, which describes itself as "a leading supplier of
responsibly sourced coloured gemstones" said, together with its
subsidiary Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), it would vigorously
defend itself and it denounced any form of violence or abuse.
Monday's statement from Leigh Day, which acts on a no win,
no fee basis, said it had served formal proceedings on behalf of
the claimants, who allege they have been shot, beaten, subjected
to humiliating treatment and sexual abuse, unlawfully detained,
and/or forced to carry out menial labour.
Contacted by Reuters, the High Court said it could not
Leigh Day said it could take months for the case to be
Gemfields, which was formerly listed in London, is owned by
Pallinghurst after it completed its acquisition of the
London-based firm in December.
Both Gemfields and Pallinghurst on Monday referred Reuters
to a statement on Gemfields' website it first issued in February
when it said Leigh Day had sought to settle out of court, but
had not filed a formal claim.
"Should the claim be served, Gemfields and MRM would
vigorously defend themselves," the statement said.
"We recognise that in the past instances of violence have
occurred on and off the MRM licence area, both before and after
our arrival in Montepuez," it said, adding these had often been
between rival groups of artisanal miners and their handlers.
"Where such incidents have occurred, including instances
involving our own employees, MRM has taken decisive and
appropriate steps, working closely with the authorities,
including providing humanitarian assistance to artisanal miners
and community members," it said.
Leigh Day has previously brought separate court actions in
London connected with alleged abuses in Africa, arguing it was
the appropriate jurisdiction.
"We have issued claims on behalf of our clients in London.
London is where Gemfields has chosen to base itself, it is where
it enjoys its profits, and where the claimants argue it has
breached its duties to them," Leigh Day lawyer Matthew Renshaw
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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