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    Gold swindle bounces AGRM out of Thailand

    By: Peter Gonnella

    Posted: 2003/03/04 Tue 1997-2003

    PERTH – A joint venture involving the world’s largest gold producer Newmont Mining and the Western Australian Government is caught up in an alleged A$2.7 million bullion swindle in Thailand.
    Gold Corporation’s Thailand subsidiary, which had been run under the umbrella of the Australian Gold Refineries Matthey JV (AGRM) – in turn 40 percent-owned by GoldCorp’s WA Mint, 40 percent by Newmont and Johnson Matthey 20 percent – decided to shut down operations in Thailand recently after cheques for almost two-thirds of the cost of 240kg of bullion bought from GoldCorp late last year were dishonoured.

    Victim AGRM told Mineweb the customer in question, a Thai national, has since fled the country and revealed that during his spree he took more than one precious metals business to the cleaners. According to Perth-headquartered GoldCorp’s out-going chief executive Don Mackay-Coghill, Thai police and insurance representatives are now investigating the matter.

    GoldCorp, the WA state government’s international precious metals refining, minting and marketing enterprise, was alerted to the potential fraud when payments for several orders made over three days and worth a combined A$4.6 million last September and October were not received.

    Mackay-Coghill told Mineweb the culprit didn’t abscond immediately and it is believed he returned about 100kg of the stock once contacted about the failure to meet the two-day personal cheque clearance requirement. Personal cheques are the normal method of settling precious metals transactions in Thailand.

    However, cheques for the balance of the bullion purchase price, A$2.7 million, subsequently bounced and efforts to obtain the outstanding amount were to no avail as the scammer couldn’t be tracked down.

    AGRM wasn’t the only trader taken for a ride. “There were other bullion dealers and gem and diamond suppliers also affected by this particular guy,” said Mackay-Coghill. “We understand there’s about A$30 million owing in total.” So other international precious metal dealers beware.

    Mackay-Coghill is hopeful the loss will be fully covered by GoldCorp’s prudential policies, though insurance firms have been known on occasion to find excuses not to cough up. Investigators will be sure to be cross-checking that all the bullion trades were undertaken in accordance with the policies’ fine print, and trying to establish how 240kg in sales were allowed to be racked up before the alarm bells rang and whether that volume exceeded any unpaid limits.

    Mackay-Coghill added that GoldCorp Thailand had operated in Thailand for 11 years without incident. CEO designate Ed Harbuz started work at GoldCorp in Perth today (Tuesday).

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