Clive Palmer has faced another federal court grilling from liquidators of his failed company Queensland Nickel, who say he failed to meet a judge’s order to produce key financial documents.
And Mr Palmer’s Twitter account – already the cause of legal controversy – posted a bizarre cartoon just as the former federal MP was testifying from the witness box.
An examination hearing on Monday heard Mr Palmer had not produced written records detailing multi-million-dollar transfers from Queensland Nickel, which liquidators alleged he used as a “cash cow” to pay other bills.
At 2.40pm (AEST), while Mr Palmer was facing questioning by a lawyer for liquidators, his Twitter account posted a cartoon containing a self-referential joke.
— Clive Palmer (@CliveFPalmer) December 11, 2017
A judge last week ordered Mr Palmer to give an affidavit by Wednesday evening explaining a December 1 tweet from his account made during a federal court hearing he had failed to turn up for.
Mr Palmer, dressed in a sports coat and T-shirt, did not appear to have access to any electronic device in court on Monday.
The court last week ordered Mr Palmer to produce financial documents from his flagship company Mineralogy under threat of contempt charges and a raid by liquidators on his offices.
Mr Palmer told the court his staff had “produced the documents we have”.
When John Peden, a barrister for liquidators, raised the prospect of a new production order for missing transaction records, Mr Palmer said: “I don’t believe in wasting my people’s time, just because you’re funded by the Commonwealth and the Chinese Government.”
Mr Palmer gave some unusual explanations for why few people in his business empire knew of financial details apart from himself.
He said transaction details were frequently not made accessible to accounts staff because “we have our phone lines tapped by the Chinese Government”.
He said former Queensland Nickel chief financial officer Daren Wolfe would not know of recent debt levels in Mr Palmer’s enterprise as “he has been judging the world gymnastics championships in Europe”.
Palmer told ‘stop the speeches’
Mr Peden repeatedly upbraided Mr Palmer for “giving speeches” instead of answering questions.
He put it to Mr Palmer that his flagship company Mineralogy used Queensland Nickel as a “cash cow” to pay its bills.
Mr Palmer at first said this was “wrong” and that Queensland Nickel had “no money of its own” and this belonged to two holding companies.
Asked if he was aware only Queensland Nickel had a bank account, Mr Palmer said: “I can’t recall.”
Mr Peden responded: “Really? You appreciate you’re under oath, Mr Palmer?”
Mr Palmer then answered the same question about using Queensland Nickel to pay Mineralogy’s bills by saying he would have to “get advice”.
His solicitor Sam Iskander stood to remind Mr Palmer he could claim privilege against self-incrimination before answering.
The hearings are examining Mr Palmer’s role in the 2016 collapse of Queensland Nickel with debts of $300 million and leaving almost 800 people jobless.
Liquidators are targeting Mr Palmer in separate legal action to try to claw back more than $200 million they allege he recklessly drained from Queensland Nickel while acting as a “shadow director”.
Mr Palmer has denied all wrongdoing and is defending the action.