Two sacked as top mining contractor uncovers ‘sophisticated’ fraud

An engineering group that works with some of Australia’s largest mining companies has sacked two employees after uncovering a “deliberate and sophisticated” financial reporting fraud.

Britain’s Keller Group on Tuesday revealed its Melbourne-based contracting division Austral had likely overstated profits by as much as £16 million ($28 million) since 2019. Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations in Western Australia’s Pilbara region are among Austral’s prominent customers.

Austral is working on the rail line to connect to Rio Tinto’s Gudai Darri iron ore mine in WA.

“The group announces that, following an internal management operational review, it has recently identified an apparently deliberate and sophisticated financial reporting fraud discrete to the Austral business in Australia,” Keller said in a statement.

“As a result of the review, two individuals have been summarily dismissed.”

The Australian business, which is part of Keller’s Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa division, accounts for about 3 per cent of its group revenue, the company said.

Keller chief executive Michael Speakman said the company had responded swiftly and decisively to the serious issue. An internal investigation had been launched, and Keller was in the process of appointing an external adviser to conduct an independent probe, he said.

“Until this process is complete, and its consequences fully understood, it is inappropriate to comment further,” Speakman said.

“The board and management team has taken, and will continue to take, all actions we think appropriate to ensure the maintenance of both high ethical and professional standards and resilient and effective controls throughout our organisation.”

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