Mining magnate and federal MP Clive Palmer appears to have been overseeing expenditure at his now closed Queensland Nickel refinery, despite claims of having “retired” from the business three years ago.
The ABC plans to detail Palmer’s involvement in the business, which went into voluntary administration in January, then collapsed last month, leaving more than 700 workers out of work, on tonight’s “Four Corners” program.
The ABC has documents which suggest the MP was using a pseudonymous email account under the name Terry Smith to approve tens of millions of dollars in contracts and works at the refinery, including an $8 million contract for haulage and mining works and a $6.3 million nickel mining contract.
The documents suggest Palmer even had say over spending $3,546 on lubrication oil.
“Four Corners” has also uncovered a string of inter-company payments and donations made by Queensland Nickel to Palmer companies and interests, in the months before the company entered administration, including $2.5 million transferred to Mineralogy in July 2014 and $700,000 donated to foreign think tank Club de Madrid.
Palmer was not a listed director of Queensland Nickel during this time, but was a member of the refinery’s expenditure committee. “Four Corners” alleges he had veto rights over spending.
Both the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the administrators of Queensland Nickel are investigating whether the MP functioned as a shadow, or de facto director.
The report into the company by the administrators, FTI Consulting, is due to be released shortly ahead of a creditor’s meeting to decide on Queensland Nickel’s future. Workers at the refinery are believed to be owed more than $70 million in entitlements.
Meanwhile, Palmer said the “Four Corners” investigation should not be aired before the report has been released, complaining that he was not allowed to respond to the allegations live on the program.
In response, “Four Corners” said Palmer turned down several requests for comment and the program does not do live interviews.
The show airs on ABC 1 at 8.30pm tonight.