Apr 20

Rineharts back in court over ownership of assets and shares

The two eldest children of mining magnate Gina Rinehart have launched another blistering attack on their mother, launching a case which disputes the ownership of assets and shares within her multi-billion dollar empire.

The explosive new claim was served on lawyers for Mrs Rinehart, her flagship company Hancock Prospecting, and the two youngest Rinehart siblings Hope and Ginia at 7pm on Friday.

By Monday morning, the iron ore baron, known for her litigious nature, had mobilised an army of legal representatives who had applied to have the case kept confidential and thrown out of court.

The Federal Court in Sydney heard on Monday that the new claim contained very serious allegations, according to the barrister for Hancock Prospecting, David Studdy, SC.

“These are very grave allegations against my clients [and Mrs Rinehart],” he said, which relate to valuable assets owned and shares held within the family empire.

Mrs Rinehart is the richest person in Australia with an estimated wealth of around $20 billion.

The exact nature of the claims remain secret, after Mr Studdy was successful in convincing judge Peter Jacobson to temporarily suppress the proceedings until the issue can be properly argued next week.

A spokesman for Hancock Prospecting said: “The allegations being made are spurious and will be defended: this is a private family matter and it should be dealt with in private.”

It did emerge that some of the claims had been ventilated by John Hancock, Mrs Rinehart’s eldest child, in a stoush in the Western Australian Supreme Court back in 2005.

That case was settled and the court file sealed.

Mr Hancock and his sister Bianca Rinehart are now fighting their mother on a number of fronts.

Confidential arbitration is afoot in Western Australia, and a case launched in the NSW Supreme Court three years ago over Mrs Rinehart’s behaviour as trustee of a lucrative family trust is also yet to be finally resolved.

In the NSW Supreme Court case, Mrs Rinehart and youngest daughter Ginia fought to have the proceedings suppressed and kept from the public eye, even fighting a coalition of media publications to the High Court.

Their argument centred on a deed signed by each of the children back in 2006, known as the Hope Downs Deed, in which it was agreed any family spat would be resolved confidentially and out of the public domain.

But the High Court refused to hear the case, and the NSW Court of Appeal rejected that the dispute fell under the deed as well as commenting on the public interest involved in the case.

The NSW Supreme Court case erupted days before youngest daughter Ginia was due to turn 25 and the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, worth around $5 billion, vest. Mrs Rinehart was accused of failing to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries  in her role as trustee, but later voluntarily relinquished the role. The court is yet to appoint a new trustee to the role.

The latest case relates to other assets which Mr Studdy said are at the centre of Hancock Prospecting’s business.

On Monday, Chris Withers, for the two eldest Rinehart children, told the court this was another case of trying to keep the same details from being ventilated. But this was disputed by Mr Studdy. He said he was concerned the siblings had taken a completely different view from what they had argued extensively in arbitration.

Justice Jacobson agreed to suppress the documents until the hearing next week, but said he was aware of the public interest in open justice.

As a result of the statement made by Hancock Prospecting, John and Bianca made a last ditch attempt to have the suppression order lifted late on Monday, but Justice Jacobson refused.

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