Embattled billionaire Clive Palmer is directly blaming his Chinese nemesis CITIC for the collapse of his nickel empire in a new legal action which claims its failure to pay him royalties meant the Queensland company folded with a personal loss to the former MP of $2.3 billion.
Even as he sunned himself with family in Europe, Mr Palmer’s lawyers were preparing another salvo in the legal war against China’s biggest conglomerate, having already been embroiled in legal battles for several years.
The latest claim, lodged in the WA Supreme Court last week, claims the failure of CITIC to pay $48 million owed in royalties in December 2015 meant another arm of Mr Palmer’s empire — Mineralogy — was unable to lend the nickel company $28 million it needed to stay afloat.
Later, Mr Palmer claims, Queensland Nickel went into liquidation at a personal cost to him of billions of dollars.
The writ says as at August 2015, the nickel business was worth $3.024 billion — with the value now put at $700 million.
And with Mr Palmer the major shareholder, and suing CITIC in his own name, he says he was hit in the pocket, with no mention of the estimated 800 jobs lost in the process.
His claim is a $2.324 billion payment from CITIC, plus interest.
“The loss of $2.324 billion in the value of the Palmer shareholding is a loss in relation to the failure of CITIC to perform their obligations,” the writ states.
“Palmer is the ultimate beneficial and legal owner of all the shares in the Queensland Nickel Group; Palmer is the ultimate beneficial and legal owner of all the shares in Mineralogy — because Palmer is the ultimate owner, there is a relationship between Palmer, the Queensland Nickel Group and Mineralogy.”
The lawsuit is the legal confirmation of Mr Palmer’s open antipathy towards China, which he said last month “was taking control of our society and trying to undermine our sovereignty and undermine the rule of law”.
“I am the last sentry at the gate standing up to these guys, saying you have to respect Australian law,” he said.
But a CITIC spokesman said the legal arguments in the latest writ had already been made, and lost, by Mr Palmer in 2015.
“This latest legal threat borders on vexatious,” he said. “ It’s an unnecessary distraction from our main focus — putting Sino Iron on a sustainable footing. Once again, we will vigorously defend the interests of our project, workers and shareholders.”
The latest Palmer legal offensive in WA came as it emerged he and his companies were being sued for almost $500 million by the Federal Government for allegedly breaching duties as a director of Queensland Nickel and trading while insolvent.
Mr Palmer, who is on a luxury European cruise, is being personally pursued for $73 million he allegedly transferred from QN, and for $207 million in compensation.
Mr Palmer’s father-in-law Alexander Sokolov and mystery Kyrgyzstan women Evgenia Bednova are also being pursued for millions of dollars allegedly gifted to them.
Mr Palmer’s other business interests — including his flagship company Mineralogy — are also being sued for $200 million.
By Tim Clarke