Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal (D-N.Y.) asked the Justice Department yesterday to investigate possible perjury in congressional testimony given by the Hunt brothers of Texas about their silver speculation.
Rosenthal said there are major discrepancies between what Nelson Bunker and W. Herbert Hunt said under oath and sworn statements made by a former Hunt employe who was questioned by congressional staff members.
The testimony of former Hunt Energy Company vice president William Bledsoe also raised the possibility of violations of federal securities and commodities law, Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal sent copies of the conflicting testimony to Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Future Trading Commission, asking each to investigate.
In Dallas, Hunt family lawyers issued a statement saying parts of Bledsoe's deposition "are blatently untrue."
They described the Hunts' accuser as "a disgruntled former employe" and said he is being sued by the Hunts because of "highly questionable circumstances" that lead to his departure.
In 50 pages of testimony released by Rosenthal, the former employe disputes the Hunt brothers' claims that they made their silver investments independently and never worked together to try to manipulate prices.
"As I saw it at the time," Bledsoe said, "the Hunts were making a concerted attempt to manipulate or control the world's supply of silver."
When he appeared before a House subcommittee chaired by Rosenthal last month, W. Herbert Hunt said, "Let me make it very clear I look after my own investment in silver. I do not stay apprised of waht my brothers own." m
Bledsoe gave this version: "The silver transactions are made by William Hubert Hunt and Nelson Bunker Hunt in concert. They buy and sell silver together . . . The strategy is determined daily on whether Bunker or Herbert will buy or sell in their own names or in family names, in corporate names."
Bledsoe, also charged the Hunts used their influence to get Great Western United Corp. to buy silver at the same time they were. The Hunts own a majority of the stock of Great Western United, whose shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
With both the Hunts and Great Western buying silver, "It influenced the market," Bledsoe said. "You had large purchases of silver at one time coming from the Hunts, and it naturally drove the market up."
Bledsoe, who worked for the Hunts and Hunt family corporations for many years, described efforts by the billionaire brothers to persuade other wealthy people to buy silver, in hopes it would increase the price."
Former Texas Gov. John Connally represented the Hunts at the 1978 meeting with Khalid Ben Mahfouz, a wealthy Arab, and also tried to enlist Saudi Arabian financier Gaith Pharaon in silver-speculating, Bledsoe said. s
"Governor Connally had other ties with the gentleman (Pharaon) involving activities in Texas, in Georgia, and so it was just a matter of getting the Hunts in the front door with these very wealthy Arab sheikhs," he said.
Pharaon purchased the National Bank of Georgia from former Carter administration budget director Bert Lance and owns several Texas firms.
The Hunts also tried unsuccessfully to interest both the former shah of Iran and the late king of Saudi Arabia in silver, Bledsoe contended.
Bledsoe said he went to Tehran in 1975 with Nelson Bunker Hunt and met with Prince Mahmoud Rezi Pahlavi, the shah's son, to discuss silver. They were to meet later with King Faisel of Saudi Arabia, he added, but Faisel was assassinated before the meeting occurred.
The former employe said he helped negotiate loans from Swiss banks to the Hunts to finance silver purchases. He said it was "generally known" that the Hunts shipped some of the silver to Switzerland. The brothers denied during their congressional testimony they had moved silver out of the United States.
Bledsoe told staff members of Rosenthal's subcommittee he was sued by the Hunts and their family corporation after he left the company last year. The lawsuits accuse Bledsoe of diverting Hunt funds to his own use, luring employes away from the company and breach of his fiduciary duty to his employer.
His lawyer, Hugh Smith of Dallas, said the lawsuit was "a deliberate attempt on the part of Hunt Energy Corp., and particularly Nelson Bunker and W. Herbert Hunt, of seeking to undermine, discredit and slander Bill Bledsoe."
The former employe said he worked for various Hunt corporations for 15 years and volunteered to talk to congressional investigators after reading about the Hunts' congressional appearance.
Bledsoe said his records and recollections of the Hunts' business deals are "not in agreement with the responses that the Hunts made to the government committee."
In addition to challenging the Hunts' version of their silver-speculation activities, Bledsoe accused the Hunts of manipulating family trusts over which they legally have no control and of back-dating documents to deceive the Internal Revenue Service.
One of Bunker Hunt's children made a $9 million profit on a soybean venture in 1977 and 1978, and Bunker asked Bledsoe to help the boy avoid taxes by investing in an oil-drilling venture, according to Bledsoe.
"I told him, 'the contract is already signed, the wells are drilling.' He said, 'I want them in there'." Bledsoe said he passed the order to Hunt lawyers "to do the necessary documentation."
In another case, the ex-Hunt employe said, Bunker Hunt arranged for a family trust fund to purchase a large tract of land because Bunker himself was short of funds. The trust fund was supposed to be under the control of a lawyer, who was told about the transaction afterwards.
A series of trust funds were set up by the late H. L. Hunt -- father of the current generation -- so his heirs could avoid taxes. The legal status of the trusts could be questioned if the Hunts rather than the trustees actually controlled the money.
"These types of practices were one of the key reasons, along with some other similar-type activities which I didn't particularly endorse, that necessitated my leaving the employ of Hunt," Bledsoe testified.