Authors: Clem Chambers
The Armageddon Trade
‘Full of insight into how the trading floors actually work (no surprise from a City journalist of repute,), it never lets up for a moment. Fresh as today’s headlines, it reminds the world just how close it could be to financial meltdown.’ –
‘Like a digital-age John le Carré, Clem Chambers spins a gripping tale of terrorist apocalypse informed by a deep understanding of financial markets and computer technology’ –
, Senior Editor,
‘At last, a book where the words finance and thriller truly belong in the same sentence’ –
, former Barings trader and co-founder of Global Investor Bookshops and Harriman House
‘Hit the panic button! A spell-binding look, by a market master at what happens when professional money meets international terrorism. On the outcome of this trading hangs billions of dollars – and millions of lives.’ –
Richard L. Hudson
, former Editor of
The Wall Street Journal Europe
, author of
The Misbehaviour of Markets
‘Part science-fiction, part Grisham thriller,
The Armageddon Trade
plays out its doomy prophecies with unerring skill… a real page-turner’ –
‘More shocking than a squirt of lemon juice in the eye’ –
, author of the bestselling spread-betting diary,
Bets and the City
‘With uncanny accuracy, Chambers takes you into the mind of the young-gun bank traders. He’s been there and done that himself. But disturbingly, he also takes you into the mind of the fanatical terrorist. Whoa!’ –
, the world’s foremost quant and founder of
‘a cracking idea for a book… Chambers clearly knows his stuff inside out’ –
‘Captures the nature of the traders behind the foolishness and greed stalking the financial markets’ –
, City Editor,
, CNBC Anchor
‘A timely tale of catastrophic market trading and economic collapse’ –
No one writes better yarns about the city’s dark side than Clem Chambers.
The Twain Maxim
is riveting. –
The Twain Maxim
will scare the pants off even the most hardened investor.’ –
, UK’s leading technical analyst with
To my mother
with thanks to:
Ion and Annette
Hazel and Claire
Fran and Chris
And Brian for the Platinum bullet.
‘A mine is a hole in the ground with a fool at the bottom and a crook at the top.’
Samuel Clemens gazed up at the Royal Exchange, its sooty face imposing and fierce. “It seems strange to me that in two years New York will house its market in a yet mightier building.”
“Humbug, Mr Twain,” said the publisher. “As robust as you Yankees are becoming, the power of the British Empire will remain greater.”
Clemens smiled beneath his droopy white moustache.
A man in a pork-pie hat ran up to them, panting like a dog. “Mr Twain – Mr Twain! May I introduce myself? My name is Phineas Crouch. I’m a stockbroker and a great admirer of your work. I would like to offer you,” he said, catching his breath, “as humble thanks,” he gulped, “an opportunity to invest in a most exciting mining promotion in South Africa.” He seemed almost overcome with excitement. “It’s a truly remarkable opportunity and I can make it conveniently available to you.”
The sun was setting behind the iron-grey clouds and the gas lights were being lit. A shabby man was shovelling horse dung into a little cart. Clemens looked at the broker and allowed himself a private smirk. “You know, son, a mine is a hole in the ground with a fool at the bottom and a crook at the top. Excuse me if I don’t take you up on your kind offer.”
The publisher frowned at the broker and they walked on.
“The best way to ruin a good gold mine,” continued Clemens, “is to start the digging.” He chuckled.
It was cold. The air con was never bloody right. Baz’s head was throbbing – he’d drunk too much whisky the night before. The woman curled up on the far side of the bed had most of the duvet. He threw back what remained over him, got up and walked slowly to a white wicker chair. His fiftyish body was in reasonable shape, considering the abuse it had received over the years. It was covered with a red-brown fuzz so he resembled an ape. He put on his Bermuda shorts and ambled to the windows.
He drew back the curtains and looked out on to a beautiful Cayman Islands morning. The world outside was chalk white and ultramarine. He pulled back the sliding door, went across the deck and down the wooden stairs to the white sand beach. He could feel the sun on his chest and the heat filling his torso. He arched his back, arms outstretched. ‘Thank you, God,’ he said, as he waded into the sea.
After a few minutes in the warm water he returned to the house. The tart was standing at the window, wrapped in a gauzy piece of linen. He was smiling at her as he ran up the stairs, sand falling off his feet. She passed him a towel. “Thank you, lovely,” he said.
“Do you want me to stay for another week?” she asked.
“It depends,” he said, trying to empty the water out of his right ear into the towel. His head cocked, he gave her a mischievous look. “On how much it’s going to cost me.”
“The same,” she said, without a flicker of emotion.
“Baby, I’d have another week for ten thousand but not twenty.”
“That’s all right, darling,” she said, turning slowly away.
“I understand. Perhaps another time?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, another time.” He bent down and caught the hem of her wrap. “But seeing as you’re here until lunch, I should make the most of you.” He pulled on the sheet and she let it fall away from her. Naked, she struck a pose like Botticelli’s Venus on the shell. He stepped up on to the deck and dropped his wet trunks. She took his hand and led him towards the bedroom.
Baz hated the Internet. When he typed his name into Google it brought up way too much information about him and his dealings – far more than he was comfortable with. You might need to be some kind of stalker to spend days piecing the patchwork together, but if you did it wouldn’t show the sort of picture he wanted.
Baz Mycock was a respected mining promoter, or so his Filipino web team had sprinkled liberally around the Net, but even that designation gave a clue as to what he did. Pop venues had promoters, and dodgy selling practices were called promotions, so at best “promoter” might be seen as a nice word for “pimp”. In reality, it was a nice word for “scammer”. Mining promoters, however, fulfilled a need. Just like a real pimp, they sold product to a desperate and grateful audience – the gambling fraternity who bet on volatile stocks.
An Arabian thoroughbred was designed to race not to transport, and in much the same way his promotions were meant to trade violently and not necessarily turn into mines. The stupid, greedy rich wanted their fun and he provided it.
He double-checked his BlackBerry. It listed all his contacts. He checked the DVD again; all his contacts were there too.
He ejected the DVD – didn’t bother to close down the computer – then took out the power cord and mouse. He walked from the study into the bedroom and out on to the deck, then went down the stairs to the hot sand. There was only so much shagging and swimming he could bear. It was time to start the next deal. He hopped up on to the jetty and walked to the end. Notebook under his arm, he climbed down into the speedboat, cast off and drove into deep water.
The gentle waves slopped against the hull as the speedboat wallowed, powerless, the engine gurgling. Baz tossed his notebook overboard. Its LEDs flashed red and green as it spun through the air, then plopped into the water; a plastic capsule of toxic metals. He pulled the accelerator handle and turned the boat hard right. The last repository of undeniable truth about his last operation was now gone for good. Anything left was hearsay.
The water fizzed as the bow of the boat carved through it and the smell of brine filled his nostrils. “Game on,” he shouted to the world.
“Not now, love,” said Baz, shooing away the scrawny
. “Congo, that’s where I’m going. Congo’s where it’s at.”
She sat down on the fat leather arm of Ralph’s chair. “Shoo,” said Ralph, smiling charmingly. “Later, my dear. Give us a few minutes.”
Ralph was about Baz’s age, fifty, and had been a broker in
dodgy mining stocks all his life. These days, they called people like him “corporate financiers”. He had been helped along in his career by his dashing looks and even now – at a distance, in a kind light, through soft gauze – he looked pretty good and might even be mistaken for a man in his twenties. He liked to imagine himself as akin to Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. Baz looked like the picture in the attic, his face as worn as a Hell’s Angel’s leather jacket. Up close, though, Ralph’s physiognomy was not that of youth: in the cold hard light of day, the lines of his face showed deep, while his nut-brown hair with its schoolboy cut sat ridiculously on the head of an older man.
“It’s the right time.”
“It’s very flat out there for resource plays,” said Ralph. “Mining’s completely out of favour, as you know.”
“Right,” said Baz. “Good time to start winding up a new one.”
“Quite,” said Ralph, not really agreeing.
“It’ll take me a year or so to get the project rolling.”
“You’ll need a nice parcel of rights this time round,” said Ralph, and had a sip of his brandy.
“Right,” said Baz. “Got to get something really tasty. Congo’s perfect. All the minerals on God’s earth are there. The place is jammed with metals. It’s just a question of hooking up the right deal.”
“A year, you reckon,” replied Ralph, happy that Baz wasn’t going to ask him to raise money in the worst stock market since 1929.
“Yeah. Right now no one wants deals so no one’s doing any. It’s a perfect time for me to do some with the Congolese. They’re bound to be feeling the pinch. No buckshee like the old days.”
“True,” said Ralph. “Very true.”
“By the time I’ve got a nice parcel of rights, things’ll be picking up and I’ll have a lovely mine, all ready for you to raise money for.”
“So, you’ll want to float the project on the London AIM market in about two years?”
“It should be ready for an IPO by then.”
Floating a company on the stock market was when the real fun began. The Initial Public Offering gave anyone the chance to trade its shares. While pre-IPO money raising was the dress rehearsal, the IPO was Baz’s scheme’s opening night.
“Want a pre-IPO money raise?”
“Pre-pre-IPO money raise?
“Founders’ stock?’ He meant the cheap shares handed out at the birth of the deal. It was a promise of free money later.
“Ker, ker, ker.” Baz laughed, nodding.
“Warrants, options, convertibles, shadow stock?”
“Ker, ker, ker.” Baz raised his glass.
Ralph clinked it. It was going to be another mining ramp from the master. Baz always made “the boys” money while the suckers got utterly fleeced. Every few years he would show up with a new deal. “The boys” would get a nice piece of action and the suckers would take the bait for the umpteenth time and be shafted.
Ralph turned. “Young lady,” he called. The five, mainly naked, girls on the stage turned towards them. He stared at the particularly scrawny unhealthy-looking one with the badly enlarged breasts, who swung limply around the central
pole. She was dressed in only a light blue spangled thong.
“Yes, you, pretty thing.”
She straightened and came towards them in what might have passed for a lazy, seductive strut.
“Sounds like a runner, Baz,” said Ralph. “We’re in.”
Baz was peering at the stage. The short blonde tart was passable. “Good news,” he said to Ralph, wagging a finger at her. She caught his drift.
McCoy was a mining engineer. However, his job was not designing mines but validating potential ones. He extrapolated the findings of explorers and outlined the possibilities of deposits that had been sketchily defined by seismic tests, drilling cores and other such geological evidence. It was his rubber stamp that got many a speculative mine off the drawing board and, more often than not, he had to be wildly optimistic about the data he was provided. Optimism was well remunerated by promoters like Baz.
He lived in the middle of a thousand hectares of Canada, in a house many would consider a shack. There, the detritus of a lifetime of mining projects had built up into a clutter only its solitary parent could love.
McCoy filled his whisky glass, put the bottle down and said, “No, mate, no. We want it in Kivu, next to Nyiragongo. It’s a pretty much unexplored area in Congo, right on a seismic fault with a fantastic volcano slap-bang in the middle.”
Baz topped up his glass. “This volcano, is it hot?”
“Hot?” laughed McCoy. “It blows up every year or two. Big fucking ash clouds everywhere. It’s perfect for the gold story.”
“Right. Gold and silver too.”
“They love the hydrothermal pitch,” said Baz. “‘Gold dissolved in water precipitates out in veins,’ I tell them, and they get all stressed out. ‘Gold can’t dissolve in water,’ they say. ‘Everyone knows
. You’re having us on.’” He took a slug of whisky. “‘Oh, no, Mr Fuckface Fund Manager. Gold dissolves in water at two hundred degrees centigrade, like bath salts in your tub, and in our volcano we have lots of seriously hot water coming from the centre of the earth carrying gold with it. Look it up on Wikipedia!’” He quaked with laughter as McCoy grinned at him. “Brilliant. Once they verify that, they believe anything I tell them.”
Sensing his time was right, McCoy said, “I want three mil.”
Baz was no longer laughing. “That’s twice as much as last time.”
“I know, but this is the last job for me. I’m getting too old for it.”
Baz stared at the old drunk. He was right: he was too old for the job. “OK, three mil it is, but we’ve got to have more than gold.”
“Copper and rare earths – lots of rare earths. Elements like indium are hundreds of dollars a pound, these days.”
“Give me more.”
“Gold and diamonds?” queried Baz.
“Why not? We find diamond kimberlite and then we find some gold as well. It’s a copper mountain with gold veins and a network of kimberlite volcanic pipes in it.”
“Like it,” said Baz. “With rare earths thrown in.”
“In the gold veins.”
“That would be pushing it.” McCoy sank his whisky and poured another.
Baz paused. “I like that. We could start with looking for cobalt and trash the share price when we don’t find it. Then we come up with the kimberlite.”
“And then the gold.”
“It’s sounding good.”
McCoy picked up his pencil and ringed an area on the map where the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda met.
“Up to about ten minutes ago, pretty much since Mobutu fucked off to hell in ’ninety-seven, this whole region has been at constant war. It’s been a nightmare of murder, rape, depravity.” He jabbed the pencil down to emphasise each word. “It’s the perfect place for the hole.”
“McCoy, you’re a bloody genius.”
“I want all the money by IPO.”
Baz scowled. “A hundred thousand a year until IPO, a mil on IPO, a mil on the dump and the balance six months after completion.”
“A quarter of a mil a year and it’s agreed.”
“Two hundred a year.”
“I want three million or you can find yourself another mining engineer.”
“You might be sweet but you aren’t unique,” said Baz, smiling as he topped up his glass.
McCoy poured himself some more whisky. “Two hundred and fifty K a year et cetera. Can you drink to that?”
“Phah,” said Baz, raising his glass. “Why fucking not? You sure we can’t have platinum?”
“Yes. No. Yes. No, we can’t have platinum.”
Fuck me, thought Baz. It had cost him a hundred euros in bribes just to get through immigration at Kinshasa airport. The arrivals hall was chaos, packed with an impenetrable crowd that seemed intent on keeping the traveller hemmed in. It was as hot and humid as a Turkish bath attendant’s armpit.
“Oi, Baz!” called a deep voice he recognised, above the noise of the crowd. “Over ’ere.”
He caught sight of a stocky figure in white shorts and a loud Hawaiian shirt.