PALMER WINS COURT BATTLE OVER $12M CAMPAIGN FUND
Written on the 4 May 2015 by Nick Nichols
BILLIONAIRE MP and budding resources baron Clive Palmer has scored a legal victory against Chinese company CITIC over allegations that he misappropriated $12 million to support his political party's election campaign.
But it wasn't without a judge's rejection of Palmer's so called "unclean hands" defence which implied CITIC had used the civil case to extract unfair advantage over Palmer's interests in the Sino Iron project.
In a statement today, Palmer has claimed a "major victory" after Queensland Supreme Court Justice David Jackson dismissed CITIC's claim that Palmer had misappropriated the funds forwarded by the company for a port project in WA's Pilbara.
It was alleged that Palmer drew two cheques from a fund established to manage the WA port. One cheque went to his company Cosmo Developments and the other to advertising company Media Circus, which undertook advertising work for the Palmer United Party ahead of the 2013 federal election.
The $12.176 million was repaid by Palmer's parent company Mineralogy prior to the civil case proceeding late last year.
Justice Jackson found that, as the funds were not held in trust, Palmer did not have a case to answer. Palmer says he is not surprised by the finding and has called for an apology from CITIC.
"The facts of the claim were for an improper purpose because CITIC Limited was refusing to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars of iron ore, illegally occupying an Australian port and failing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties to Mineralogy," Palmer says.
"The strategy of CITIC Limited a Chinese state-owned company - was to use unlimited Chinese Government funds to cause havoc in Australian courts with questionable integrity to break down the good name I have enjoyed in business for over 40 years.
"CITIC Limited also knew under the terms of the contract that I was restrained from speaking with the media or would be in breach of the contract.
"The chairman of CITIC Limited owes me an apology for questioning my integrity and creating false impressions in the Australian community following the dismissal of the claim and allegations which have been proven to have no merit.
"All Australians should be grateful that we live in a democracy with independent courts."
CITIC plans to review the decision, although it notes that Justice Jackson made some key findings.
"We welcome the court's rejection of Mr Palmer's so-called unclean hands defence," says a CITIC spokesman.
"Justice Jackson also found that Mr Palmer knew the Administrative Fund was to be used solely for authorised costs and reimbursements and knew that the payments to Cosmo and Media Circus were not authorised payments.
"Our view remains that the use of this money to bankroll Mr Palmer's political ambitions and other business interests was inappropriate and unauthorised.
"As noted by the court, since we launched this action, Mr Palmer's company Mineralogy has repaid a sum including an amount of $12.167 million, on account of the challenged payments.
"We will carefully study the decision, which turns on the technical legal question of whether contributions to the Administrative Fund were held on trust or not."
Author: Nick Nichols