NEW YORK — Texas oil tycoon Nelson Bunker Hunt denied plotting to corner the world silver market in 1979-80, stating under oath Wednesday: "I never participated in any conspiracy with anybody at any time."
Hunt and his two younger brothers are being sued for $150 million by a South American silver company that claims the Hunts manipulated the world silver market eight years ago.
Minpeco SA, a mineral marketing company owned by the Peruvian government claims the brothers--Nelson Bunker Hunt, 62; William Herbert Hunt, 59, and Lamar Hunt, 55--conspired unsuccessfully with others to corner the world silver market in 1979 and 1980.
In his second day of testimony at federal court in Manhattan, Nelson Bunker Hunt denied trying to manipulate silver prices. Both of his brothers and other family members sat in the first row of spectators in U.S. District Judge Morris E. Lasker's courtroom.
"I'm an upfront, open guy and I don't get involved in any conspiracy," drawled Hunt, whose father, legendary oil wildcatter H. L. Hunt, made the family fortune.
The Hunts lost more than $1 billion when the silver market collapsed in 1980. Their Placid Oil Co. and the brothers' three individual trusts, which control Penrod Drilling Co., have subsequently gone into bankruptcy proceedings.
"It isn't like it was," Hunt, once a billionaire, said Tuesday.
Asked by defense attorney Paul Curran if he had "participated in any conspiracy or agreement" with co-defendant Mahmoud Fustok to manipulate the price of silver, Hunt said: "I never participated in any conspiracy with anybody at any time."
Fustok, a brother-in-law of the Saudi Arabian crown prince, is the only other defendant facing the lawsuit trial with the Hunts. The trial began in February.
Three other defendants in the lawsuit, two Arab sheiks and a Lebanese businessman, are living outside the United States. They have not challenged Minpeco's court papers.
The sheiks, Ali Bin Mussalem and Mohammed Al-Amoudi, along with Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, owned International Metals Investment Co., which is also a defendant in the case.