Palmer accused of ‘backdoor’ delay over fraud charges

Rex Martinich |

Businessman Clive Palmer has been accused of attempting a “backdoor” strategy to delay court hearings into allegations that he acted fraudulently in dealing with investors in his Queensland resort.

Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday considered an application by Mr Palmer and his resort business to cancel two hearings next week into the charges that were first brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in April 2018.

Palmer’s barrister, Peter Dunning KC, has previously denied any wrongdoing by his client.

ASIC prosecutor Trish McDonald told the court on Thursday it should deny the application to stop directions hearings on November 6 and 7 from going ahead in part because Palmer’s defence had sought those dates in the first place.

“They are seeking a (halt to the case) in a backdoor or less obvious manner than bringing an application up front which they know would be doomed to fail,” Ms McDonald said.

Ms McDonald said the charges had “been on foot for a very long time” and prosecutors were hoping to move the matter forward and secure a date for a hearing on whether or not to take the charges to trial.

Palmer has been charged with dishonestly gaining an advantage and using a position in a company to attempt to dishonestly gain an advantage.

The charges centre on an allegation that Palmer and his Palmer Leisure Coolum business broke the law when attempting to buy out timeshare investors in his Sunshine Coast resort.

ASIC alleged Palmer Leisure Coolum announced a takeover bid for the timeshare business, The President’s Club, in April 2012 but did not make an offer within the legally required two-month period.

Palmer Leisure Coolum was charged with violating the Corporations Act and charged Palmer with aiding or procuring the company to commit the offence.

Mr Dunning told the court on Thursday that ASIC had engaged in an “abuse of process” and pointed to comments by another judge that there was “more than one curiosity” about the criminal complaint.

“It doesn’t say who had the dishonest state of mind and when, it doesn’t say what was done in relation to it … Her Honour went on to say it’s pretty woeful,” Mr Dunning said.

Magistrate Mandy Bowen said she was not familiar with the matter as she was based in Cairns and adjourned the application for it to be decided next week before the proposed hearings.