The Perth Mint has been thrust into the national spotlight after the revelation of coinciding scandals involving a notorious biker and a $9 billion bullion deal with China gone wrong.
On Monday evening, the ABC’s Four Corners program aired a report detailing a potential $9 billion recall of gold bars featuring diluted bullion which was sold to the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE).
‘Gold doping’ is the addition of trace amounts of elements such as silver or copper to bullion. It’s an accepted practice as long as a standard of 99.99% purity is maintained.
“The mint began doping its gold as a cost-saving measure in 2018, expecting to save up to $620,000 a year — a tiny fraction of its annual sales,” the ABC report reveals.
“Within two years this desire to save money would put the mint at the centre of what may be one of the biggest gold scandals in Australian history. From the outset, there were signs of trouble.
“Just months after the doping began, the report says refinery staff identified concerns that silver and copper levels may have exceeded those allowed by the SGE. Despite this, refinery staff continued doping the gold.”
In September of 2021, officials at the SGE alleged that two gold bars contained too much silver and were non-compliant.
The Perth Mint allegedly launched an internal investigation which concluded that up to 100 tonnes of stock would need to be recalled from Shanghai and replaced.
A purity test of the two bars identified as problematic by the SGE revealed that they were above 99.99 per cent pure, but had exceeded the SGE’s strict standards for silver.
“But it wasn’t just one bad batch, it meant most of the gold bars during the three-year doping program were potentially non-compliant with Shanghai standards. Crucially, the mint did not share this information with its largest client,” the report continues.
The SGE opted not to make its complaint public and accepted assurances of quality from the mint, agreeing that certificates of ‘assay’ would accompany all future bars.
Visit from the Hells Angels
The Perth Mint has also been accused of permitting a renowned member of the Hells Angels to purchase $27,000 in gold in June of 2022.
Dayne Brajkovich made the purchase at the Perth Mint’s gift store, despite the law requiring rigorous background checks to identify high-risk customers and prevent money laundering.
Brajkovich is no longer a member of the Hells Angels; however, he has previously been imprisoned for possessing a commercial quantity of MDMA.
In September, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) ordered the appointment of an external auditor to assess the operations of the mint.
The audit was reportedly launched as officials suspect the mint has failed to appropriately report up to 5,000 transactions.
The Perth mint is the largest processor of newly mined gold in the world and in the past year has completed sales in excess of $20 billion.
Gold Corporation is the parent company of the Perth Mint. The mint was established in 1899 and is owned by the Government of Western Australia.
Anti-money laundering agency pursues audit of Perth Mint
Gold Corporation looking to “set the record straight” with new CEO
Sudden departure of Perth Mint CEO months before official retirement