Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Palmer’s $100M QN loans never ‘sinister’

Clive Palmer’s lawyers at the Queensland Nickel collapse trial say the billionaire businessman’s $100 million loans were transparent and just business.

August 21, 2019

Clive Palmer’s $102 million unrepaid loans from the cash-strapped Queensland Nickel refinery was transparent and never “sinister”, a court has heard.

The series of massive loans to Mr Palmer’s flagship company, Mineralogy, have become central to a long-running lawsuit between the billionaire businessman and liquidators of the Townsville refinery.

On Wednesday, a lawyer for Mr Palmer’s companies, Chris Ward SC, said liquidators had failed to understand the joint venture agreement governing QN and the ownership of the company’s funds.

QN was merely an agent acting on behalf of the JV partners and didn’t own the money loaned to Mineralogy, Dr Ward said.

“There is absolutely nothing sinister, nor is there anything even unusual about the treatment of these loans,” he said during his opening address at the Brisbane Supreme Court trial.

“It’s legal, it’s transparent, it’s appropriate.”

The court has previously heard the refinery’s JV partners, QNI Metals and QNI Resources, are ultimately owned by Mr Palmer.

Dr Ward said QN had never made a profit or a loss, never filed a tax return or owned any property in its own right.

This misunderstanding about the JV agreement renders the liquidators’ legal case “untenable”, he said.

“Their entire case flounders on that point alone,” he said.

The liquidators disagree.

They’re trying to claw back the $100 million from Mineralogy for creditors left unpaid when the refinery collapsed in 2016.

The trial has also heard about “extraordinary” deals worth $235 million, which were allegedly signed with Mr Palmer’s Galilee Basin mining projects.

The liquidators say the deals were uncommercial and occurred while QN was trading insolvently in the days before administrators arrived at the ailing refinery.

Mr Palmer vehemently denies the accusations, saying they’re baseless.

On Monday, his lawyers asked the court to put a permanent stay on the case.

Dr Ward said it had devolved into a fee-chasing exercise for the liquidators’ financial backers.

The court has heard in other comparable cases litigation funders can receive a 30 per cent cut of the money collected.

Dr Ward said if this were to occur it would beĀ unfair and disproportionate.

Justice Debra Mullins also raised questions about the amount of money the liquidators’ backers may receive if Mr Palmer lost the court case.

She reserved her decision on the stay application to a future date.

The trial continues on Friday.

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