Friday, October 11, 2013

Gina Rinehart the biggest victim, says lawyer

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart has been painted as the biggest victim in the war with her two eldest children, with her lawyer telling the court she had been so selfless that she could not retire or pour her billions into philanthropy.

In an explosive afternoon in the NSW Supreme Court, the public was given the first insight into Mrs Rinehart's position in the emotional battle.

Her barrister, Noel Hutley, SC, said she had left her ''valuable position'' in her flagship company Hancock Prospecting in the hands of her children.


Mrs Rinehart's wealth is estimated at $22 billion, made up of a number of mining assets, including undeveloped iron ore tenements and a joint venture with Rio Tinto to develop the Hope Downs mine in the Pilbara.

Mr Hutley said his client was the ''biggest victim'' in the tragic family fallout between Mrs Rinehart and her two eldest children, John Hancock and and Bianca Rinehart. She rejected any claim she had engaged in illicit behaviour.

Mr Hancock and Ms Rinehart are suing their mother over her management of a $5 billion trust set up for them by their grandfather Lang Hancock, which held 23.4 per cent of Hancock Prospecting. They accuse her of breaching her duties as trustee when she told them they would be bankrupt if the trust was allowed to vest, claiming she deliberately deceived them.

They also take issue with amendments made to the constitution of Hancock Prospecting in 2006, which prevent shareholders from transferring their shares to anyone but existing shareholders, which, they argue, serves to entrench Mrs Rinehart's control.

Mr Hutley told the court that to accept Mrs Rinehart had concocted a ''cunning plan'' would be foolish, when the case against her was nothing more than ''imagined potential wrongs''. He said the 2006 changes were ''selfless in the extreme. She is the person who, if she wanted to get out and retire from the business or turn her money to philanthropy,'' would now be stuck, Mr Hutley said.

''That was because she essentially lost her chance to get money from a third party for her interest in the company,'' he said.

''Of course, the consequence of her wanting to get out would be that her children take control of the company,'' he said.

The argument is strongly rejected by her children.

A source close to the family said either Mr Hancock or ms Rinehart would be very suitable candidates to run the company given their experience in the mining industry and tertiary qualifications.

This week, the court heard John Poynton - who has served on many boards including Azure Capital and Crown Perth - had sworn an affidavit in support of Ms Rinehart being appointed trustee.

At the start of the trial on Tuesday, a number of trustees had been put forward to replace Mrs Rinehart. By Friday afternoon none remained after suggestions by both Ms Rinehart and her sister Ginia were rejected by the court and Mr Hancock.
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