A judge has given billionaire businessman Clive Palmer a tongue-lashing at the trial into the collapse of Queensland Nickel, which shut down in 2016 with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
Mr Palmer was absent for most of the first two days of the Brisbane Supreme Court trial, prompting Justice Debra Mullins to reprimand the former federal MP.
“Quite frankly Mr Palmer, I manage the court’s self-represented litigants … and those who are in court because they can’t afford a lawyer or by choice don’t want a lawyer; they actually appear at the bar table the whole time,” Justice Mullins said on Monday.
Mr Palmer said he had been “vexed” between coming to court each day and attending to his duties as the director of his companies.
“Ah, well can I tell you what directors of companies usually do? They engage lawyers,” Justice Mullins shot back.
A sheepish Mr Palmer apologised and said he would adjust his schedule so he could attend each day of the trial.
“I was wrong, there’s just nothing else to say,” he said, referring to the days already missed.
The former federal MP is fighting a lawsuit against liquidators chasing about $200 million they say was owed to creditors when the cash-strapped Townsville refinery shut down.
A team of special liquidators is also trying to recover almost $70 million in taxpayer funds used to cover unpaid entitlements to about 800 workers.
US mining valuations expert Richard Marston was the first witness of the trial sworn in on Monday.
In 2018 he prepared a report about China First, an allegedly worthless mining company owned by Mr Palmer.
The court has previously heard that as QN hurtled towards collapse, the ailing company was $25 million in the red and losing $5 million more each month with creditors circling.
Despite this, in the days before administrators were called, QN allegedly signed mining deals worth $235 million to pay Mr Palmer ahead of workers and suppliers.
The agreements with China First and Waratah Coal were allegedly made just days before QN let go of 218 workers in January 2016 and last-ditch attempts to secure finance from banks and government failed.
The trial continues.