Court told mining executive once transported 120kg of gold bars on back seat of car to his employer's house in Perth
HomeHome > Blog > Court told mining executive once transported 120kg of gold bars on back seat of car to his employer's house in Perth

Court told mining executive once transported 120kg of gold bars on back seat of car to his employer's house in Perth

Dec 17, 2023

A mining executive transported up to 120 kilograms of unstamped gold bars on the back seat of his car to the Perth house of his employer, the same boss who now alleges he stole gold-bearing ore, the Kalgoorlie District Court has heard.

Patrick Ryhan Keogh, 42, the former general manager of gold miner FMR Investments, is one of five people on trial over the alleged theft of gold-bearing ore from the company's Greenfields Mill near Coolgardie.

Mr Keogh's co-accused include two of his former subordinates and two directors of a privately owned earthmoving and haulage company.

The group is accused of stealing 8,465 tonnes of gold ore from Greenfields Mill — owned by FMR Investments — between December 2018 and January 2019.

The gold ore had an estimated value of $1.17 million, based on gold prices at the time.

The court has previously heard Mr Keogh shared a "mentor and protégé" relationship with the company's founder, well-known WA mining entrepreneur Peter Bartlett, and his defence claims that his former boss gifted him the gold-bearing ore as a "reward".

On the fifth day of hearings on Monday, FMR Investments' finance director Charles Watson took the stand and was asked about a 2012 incident in which Mr Keogh transported unstamped gold bars to Mr Bartlett's house in Perth.

Under cross-examination from Mr Keogh's lawyer Seamus Rafferty, Mr Watson told the court he was aware that Mr Bartlett kept unstamped Doré bars in a safe at his home.

"I've never seen one," said Mr Watson, who has worked for FMR Investments since 1998 and has sat on the board for the past 20 years.

Doré bars produced at Greenfields Mill comprise about 50 to 80 per cent gold and other minerals like silver, before they are refined to 99.99 per cent purity at the Perth Mint.

Mr Rafferty asked if the value of the bars was reflected on any of the company's books.

"Not at that stage, no," Mr Watson said, adding they had not yet been refined.

Mr Rafferty asked if that was an "unconventional practice".

"I don't know … it is not in line with normal practice," Mr Watson said, adding that the bars are stamped so the Perth Mint can keep track of them.

Mr Rafferty then pressed him further on whether it was "improper".

"I've never made a judgement on that [if it was improper]," he said.

"It's FMR's gold and if Peter [Bartlett] wants to keep it at home … it's probably safer than the gold room."

The gold miner's ownership structure was also revealed in court as Mr Bartlett and his long-time business partner Ron Sayers, who controlled the business on a 50:50 basis through an entity known as the FMR Unit Trust.

Mr Sayers, who died in May last year aged 70 after a battle with cancer and Alzheimer's disease, is best known for founding mining services giant Ausdrill.

During testimony on Friday, the new general manager of FMR Investments, John Farr, was asked about the process of transporting gold bars from the mill to the Perth Mint.

He said each bar was weighed, stamped, and recorded in a register, while a drill was used to take a small sample "for DNA purposes".

He said it was "industry best practice" to use armoured security for transport.

"You've never delivered gold … you've never had any gold bars in your car?" Mr Rafferty asked.

"No," Mr Farr replied.

After being told of Mr Farr's testimony, Mr Watson agreed that the use of armoured security was best practice for the transportation of gold.

Mr Rafferty then asked why Mr Keogh — who worked for FMR Investments from 2009 to 2020 — was asked to transport between 100kg to 120kg of gold Doré bars on the back seat of his car.

"That's not ideal ... we knew about it at the time," Mr Watson said.

"We have tightened up on a number of areas since John Farr took over," he added.

Mr Rafferty asked if the gold was still at Mr Bartlett's house.

"I don't believe so," he said.

The court also heard details of Mr Bartlett selling a $6 million jet following a failed building project in the Pilbara town of Port Hedland in 2012.

Mr Bartlett and his wife Julie Bartlett are due to testify in the trial this week.

The trial before Judge Christopher Stevenson continues.

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