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Gold theft trial hears how detectives uncovered alleged million-dollar swindle

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Gold theft trial hears how detectives uncovered alleged million-dollar swindle

Senior detectives from the Kalgoorlie-based Gold Stealing Detection Unit have been investigating two prospectors once they stumbled throughout an alleged million-dollar gold theft involving senior administration at a West Australian mining firm, the District Court docket has heard. 

5 individuals are on trial over the alleged theft of 8,465 tonnes of gold-bearing ore from the Greenfields Mill – owned by FMR Investments — between December 2018 and January 2019.

Based mostly on gold costs on the time, the gold ore had an estimated worth of $1.17 million.

Former FMR Investments normal supervisor Patrick Rhyan Keogh, 42, and former mill supervisor Christopher Robert Burns, 76, have each pleaded not responsible to stealing as a servant and numerous different prices as a part of the trial.

On day seven of hearings, the court docket heard that the police investigation, dubbed Operation Storm, started in 2020 with an preliminary give attention to Russell Wilson Holden, 51, and Simon Leslie Gash, 57, who’re preventing numerous cash laundering and fraud prices.

A man with a shaved head and neat beard, wearing dark sunglasses and a suit, walks through a court complex.
Detective Senior Constable Andrew Kettle leaves the Kalgoorlie Courthouse after testifying.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)

Mr Burns’s interview with detectives at Busselton Police Station on January 5, 2021 – the identical day a search warrant was executed at his Geographe house – was performed to the court docket right this moment.

“You mentioned you’ve got been investigating buddies of mine,” Mr Burns mentioned on the tape, which was one hour and 44 minutes lengthy.

“Sure, that is proper,” Detective Senior Constable Andrew Kettle replied.

‘Each canine has his day’

Through the interview Mr Burns informed detectives he had recognized Mr Gash and Mr Holden for greater than 12 years and had socialised with them on just a few events.

“I would had a few beers of their yard in Kalgoorlie,” Mr Burns mentioned.

However texts revealed later within the police interview and performed to the court docket highlighted the rising stress in their relationship.

“[Mr Keogh] is a self-centred c*** of an individual … each canine has his day,” Mr Burns mentioned in a message to Mr Gash.

Requested by the interviewing detectives what he meant within the messages, Mr Burns mentioned he tended to “name a spade a spade”.

The prosecution alleges FMR Investments acquired $838,084 to cowl its prices and that $2.5 million was transferred to Aqua Alluvial Pty Ltd, which later made funds of $587,291 every to Mr Keogh and Mr Burns, equal to a 25 per cent lower of the income.

The court docket was proven Australian Securities and Investments Fee paperwork that named Mr Gash and Mr Holden as administrators of Aqua Alluvial Pty Ltd.

A split image showing four men and a woman, all middle aged or older and all apparently heading towards court.
Patrick Ryhan Keogh (from left), Christopher Robert Burns, Morgan Whitney Dombroski, Russell Wilson Holden and Simon Leslie Gash are on trial within the Kalgoorlie District Court docket over an alleged gold swindle.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)

The court docket heard Mr Burns collected money funds “a few times” from Mr Gash and Mr Holden at an industrial yard in West Kalgoorlie.

Throughout his police interview, the detectives requested Mr Burns how a lot cash he was making out of the deal.

“I am not 100 per cent certain,” he mentioned.

“I used to be getting some money … the plan was I might do a bit of labor for them sooner or later and get some revenue, as a result of I am not on a pension.”

The detectives then requested how the deal happened.

“[Patrick Keogh had] spoken to [FMR Investments founder and director] Peter [Bartlett] … I did not see a difficulty,” Mr Burns mentioned.

The court docket was proven paperwork indicating that Mr Burns signed off on the gold in circuit calculations on behalf of Aqua Alluvial Pty Ltd.

He responded “I do not know” when the detectives requested if it was regular to log off on behalf of a shopper.

A gold processing plant with large tanks in a remote mining area.
The Greenfields Mill at Coolgardie is operated by FMR Investments.(Equipped: FMR Assets)

$90,000 money fee questioned

Mr Burns denied strategies from the detectives he paid $90,000 to Ms Dombroski out of his share to “hold non-public” as a result of “one thing shonky has gone on there”. 

The court docket heard Mr Burns handed Ms Dombroski the cash in an envelope, telling her “do not ask questions.”

“On the time I believed she deserved it for the work she’d put in,” he mentioned, including he believed she ought to have been given a increase by FMR Investments.

“She’s managed the location extraordinarily diligently each time in my absence.”

“Why give her $90,000 only for doing her job?” Detective Sergeant Chris King requested.

“Trying again it definitely wasn’t to maintain her gob shut,” he mentioned.

“She mentioned, why are you being so beneficiant? And I mentioned it is as a result of I feel you deserved it for the final 4 or 5 years.”

Mr Burns mentioned Mr Keogh informed him they’d permission to course of the ore.

“Paddy [Mr Keogh] was of the opinion that was advantageous,” Mr Burns mentioned.

“I did not hear that [permission to profit from ore] from Peter [Bartlett].”

A woman brushes her hair with her hand as she walks into a court trial.
Morgan Dombroski labored for FMR Investments from July 2014 to January 2019.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)

‘Dodgy dealings’ rejected 

In earlier testimony, the court docket heard Mr Burns retired on January 8, 2019 — the day after the milling of the allegedly stolen ore was accomplished.

Mr Burns’s separation paperwork was proven to the court docket, which confirmed he had resigned on November 9, 2018.

The final day labored was listed as January 8, 2019 and his termination turned efficient after his final rostered time off on January 14, 2019.

Mr Burns mentioned he left the corporate on “affordable phrases” and that there was “no unhealthy blood”.

As mill supervisor, he was incomes about $215,000 a yr, plus bonuses.

Below cross-examination by Mr Burns’s lawyer Tom Percy KC, Detective Senior Constable Kettle confirmed that Mr Burns had no prior prison document and that he didn’t know him previous to the investigation.

Mr Percy has beforehand informed the court docket his shopper suffered from “chemotherapy mind”, which made him have hassle with recall, after being recognized with leukaemia in 2019.

Mr Percy has informed the court docket there was no fraud or “dodgy dealings”, and described the processing deal as “mutually helpful” and a “win-win for everybody”, together with FMR Investments.

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