A FRAUD claim against a senior Queensland mining boss has ballooned with his employer accusing him of stealing more than twice as much as previously thought.
Glenn James Tonkin, 50, from Mount Samson, west of Brisbane, was accused in September of rorting $4.5 million from global mining giant Anglo American’s Queensland coal business between 2013 and 2014.
After swiftly freezing his assets and hiring investigators to probe his past, shortly before Christmas the company slapped him with another $5.3 million damages claim — alleging he also rorted the company when he worked to expand a copper mine in South America between 2009 and 2011.
Tonkin is accused of using an elaborate scheme of fake invoices to secretly siphon company money to his offshore bank accounts in the Caribbean and Hong Kong, according to documents filed in a civil suit in Brisbane’s Supreme Court.
The claims arose in September while he was on a $315,000 salary working as the project manager of a central Queensland mine — where he had the power to approve payments to contractors.
In documents filed to the court, his work colleagues at Anglo’s Brisbane CBD office and its mine project in central Queensland claimed he had been on a spending spree — buying a 50-foot catamaran worth nearly $1 million, a Harley Davidson and a Mercedes.
A colleague who worked as a construction manager at the Grosvenor mine, Greg O’Donnell said that Tonkin telephoned him in late August to boast about buying a Harley.
“He said to me … he had bought a (new) Harley Davidson ‘breakout’ motorcycle. He said (it was) blue because everyone has a red one.
“He said he bought the top model and (he had purchased upgrades).”
Mr O’Donnell also claimed Tonkin had boasted about his boat and had arranged a sailing trip for a dozen colleagues from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Manly in February 2013, documents show.
“He said that … it was quite large … and it could berth himself and his wife on one side and children on the other.”
Another colleague, commercial manager Stephen Grant said he went to a Christmas party at Tonkin’s Mount Samson home.
“Mr Tonkin’s home is very impressive and well presented … (it) is on a large number of hectares and has a large entertaining area, a pool and a very substantial home theatre,” Grant stated in the court documents.
Tonkin’s impressive property portfolio also includes a home in Holland Park in Brisbane’s southeast.
Mr Grant said he was surprised when Tonkin drove to work on what would be his last day at the company in “what appeared to be a brand new (black) Mercedes”.
“Mr Tonkin said the car was an asset of his family trust,” Mr Grant said.
Mr Grant said Tonkin told him the car was bought “to solve a tax problem”.
It is alleged that Tonkin approached contractors to the Australian and South American mining projects asking them to pay a company he secretly owned for phantom equipment or consultancy work.
The contractors didn’t know they were being used by Tonkin to try and hide his alleged fraud.
The contractors would later pass on the charges to Anglo American and Tonkin would green light payment. No equipment or services were allegedly ever provided, but amid mine projects worth billions the $9.8 million was allegedly not missed.
Court files show Anglo spent $US2.8 billion expanding the Los Bronces mine in Chile — and of this $500 million was with contracts entered directly by Anglo staff such as Tonkin.
It appears Tonkin didn’t see the allegations coming because on the day he was confronted by his bosses and chose to resign, he emailed contractor Andrew Barnes thanking him for his help.
“The payment was all completed … thanks for your help with this, I owe you a bottle of red,” Tonkin wrote.
Tonkin is expected to deny the allegations and defend the claim.
In the case involving the alleged payments from the coal mine development in Queensland, he has claimed “self-incrimination privilege against the production of some documents and information”.
Anglo succeeded in getting court permission to search his Mount Samson home.
And on October 24, he also chose to voluntarily transfer $3.2 million from his Hong Kong bank account to the lawyers acting for Anglo — a move that Anglo claims “amounts to an admission”.
The alleged con unravelled in mid-August after an eagle-eyed colleague Phillipa Starmer noticed one of her emails had been altered. After an investigation, the HR department found it was likely Tonkin was responsible.
Tonkin admitted he had breached procurement guidelines — a relatively minor misdeed — but rather than stand aside while he was investigated Tonkin chose to resign.
When the HR boss began digging, he found the US consultant named in the email — Hank Testolin — didn’t exist. Alarm bells rang.
In November Anglo sent its lawyer to Santiago in Chile to interview potential witnesses in the case against Tonkin.
The case returns to court on January 29.