Tradies sacked for telling cops about $488k find
TWO honest tradies who dug up hundreds of thousands of dollars buried in a Queensland backyard were fired after taking it straight to police - without telling their bosses.
Now excavator operator Warren Bruggy and labourer Daniel Boyd are locked in a bitter tug of war over who should get to keep the mysterious loot.
The buried treasure of $388,850 in old paper notes and a further $100,000 in destroyed notes, was found buried in plastic tubs at a Gold Coast development site.
Mr Bruggy, 55, and Mr Boyd, 27, notified police immediately after making the puzzling find on October 31 last year at Lae Drive, Runaway Bay. Over the next two days they found more.
The two are staking their claim on the money using the little-known "finders keepers" laws. But it's not a simple claim, with the construction company that owns the land, a Gold Coast man who claims his father - a travelling chef - buried it to avoid tax, two former owners of the land and possibly the tradies' former boss are all claiming their right to the cash.
The former boss of the two tradies, Shane Grimwood, allegedly told the land owner and developer, Scott Morrison, it was his, "due to finders keepers laws'', according to a court affidavit.
"I'm not greedy … so we should just split it 50/50 and we could both be on a yacht eating oysters and drinking champagne'', Mr Morrison claims Mr Grimwood told him.
Mr Morrison said he did not take him up on the offer and he has since filed a Supreme Court application to claim all the money.
Mr Grimwood, co-director of D. I. G Earthworks, went to the Runaway Bay Police Station after learning of the find, to stake his claim on the cash, police records reveal.
Mr Morrison had hired Mr Grimwood's firm to demolish and remove a house, swimming pool, tennis courts and trees on the site.
In his affidavit, Mr Morrison said Mr Grimwood called him on November 1, saying he "couldn't believe his guys had handed the money in''.
He said Mr Grimwood told him he was heading to the land "to fire them straight away''.
Mr Bruggy told The Sunday Mail D. I. G co-director Michael Douglas called while he and apprentice Mr Boyd, were at the police station, telling them both: "Go home and don't come back".
Mr Bruggy last month told Supreme Court Justice Martin Daubney that he and Mr Boyd wanted to claim the money, as the finders, if no "true owner'' was found.
"Finders keepers? Nothing wrong with that … There is actually some ancient authority to support it, in appropriate circumstances,'' the judge said.
"When we were doing the clean-up on the job I noticed a plastic bag … It was a bit odd. We'd been digging up roots and sticks. We picked it up and then found out there was approximately $100,000 cash," Mr Bruggy told the Supreme Court.
Mr Bruggy said knowing the police station was just across the road, he and Mr Boyd "did the right thing'' and took the cash straight over.
"That's very good. I mean that. You've done the good and honest thing,'' Justice Daubney told the pair.
"I got fired because we didn't hand the money over to our employers. So they fired us on the spot for it,'' Mr Bruggy told the judge.
Mr Bruggy later told The Sunday Mail his nerves had been going "at a fair pace'', but it never crossed his mind to ring his bosses before taking the money to the police.
After police asked him to do another search later on October 31, Mr Boyd found a plastic box containing almost $100,000 in water damaged money.
The next day, both men returned to the site, and after Australian Federal Police "cash detection dogs'' failed to sniff out any money, they uncovered another two large plastic containers full of cash.
Since news reports of the find, another man, 80, has told police he believed the money could be his, as he was a victim of fraud in the 1980s. He has since abandoned his claim.
Another man, 59, showed up at court, telling the judge: "The money looked a little bit familiar, when I used to do work over at that place many years ago.''
Police also contacted all previous land owners, including Peter Chan, who claimed his brother-in-law Stephen Ma, who died in 2015, must have buried the loot on his property.
Mr Ma's son, Gold Coast restaurant owner Raymond Ma, is making a claim, as his late father's legal representative, but first must obtain letters of administration from a NSW court.
Mr Ma's lawyer, Darlene Skennar QC, told the court it was believed Stephen Ma buried the money on Mr Chan's property around 1993.
She said Mr Ma had shown Mr Chan a bag full of money, but Mr Chan would not take it from him, and that was the last he knew of it.
Mr Chan did admit he never saw Mr Ma bury the money.
Barrister David Topp, for the current land owners, said if the money was found to have been buried by Stephen Ma, it was "abandoned'' by him.
DNA and fingerprint tests have not uncovered any clues and police have ruled out a criminal connection.
A bank officer said the way the old paper notes were rolled and bagged was consistent with the method banks used to store cash in the mid-1980s.
Mr Bruggy, who had worked for D. I. G for three years as a full-time casual, has only found minimal work since being sacked, and Mr Boyd, who had been there for a year and a half, is still looking for a job.
"It's a life-changing amount. It would set me up for the rest of my life,'' Mr Boyd said.
The case is headed back to the Supreme Court next month.
The Australian Taxation Office has also taken an interest in the case.