Corporate watchdog hits besieged Indian-owned Aussie coal mine with criminal charges

Australia’s company cop has laid criminal charges in opposition to a beleaguered Indian-owned Australian coal mine already going through a revolt from staff and a legal combat with its largest buyer.

Griffin Coal, which is believed to be greater than a billion {dollars} within the crimson, has been hit with charges from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) over an alleged failure to lodge its audited monetary accounts.

An ASIC spokesman, whereas confirming the matter was earlier than the courts, declined to disclose extra particulars about the prosecution.

But it’s understood the company watchdog acted after Griffin didn’t post up to date monetary statements courting again to 2018.

The latest charges prompted a state MP to declare the miner, based mostly close to Collie in Western Australia’s solely coal-producing area, was “in its loss of life throes”.

Miner in laundry listing of woes

Last month, Griffin misplaced a serious court docket battle with its former mine supervisor, Carna Group, and was ordered to pay greater than $5 million in damages.

In an additional blow, the decide presiding over the case this week ordered Griffin to pay nearly $1.5 million further in curiosity and prices on prime of the damages declare.

A man bends down to pick up a piece of coal at Collie Western Australia Griffin Coal Mine.
Griffin has been a monetary pit for its Indian homeowners since they took over 10 years in the past.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

At the identical time, Griffin is going through a harmful legal row with its largest buyer, the Japanese-owned Bluewaters energy station, over claims the miner has didn’t adequately preserve the generator’s coal stockpile.

Amid the courtroom drama, Griffin has additionally been hit by a collection of rolling stoppages from staff claiming they’re fed up with the corporate’s efficiency.

South West Liberal MLC Steve Thomas mentioned the charges by ASIC recommended Griffin was “properly previous the disaster stage”.

Losses ‘$1 billion and counting’

Dr Thomas mentioned that since being taken over by Indian pursuits in 2011, Griffin had suffered “considerably” greater than $1 billion in losses and there was no finish in sight to the monetary bleeding.

“This is a critical cost and it isn’t one thing that ASIC wouldn’t have thought-about deeply,” Dr Thomas mentioned.

“It’s simply one other indication of the dire monetary place wherein this firm finds itself.

WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston mentioned it might be inappropriate to touch upon the ASIC charges however he “regarded ahead to the justice course of being accomplished”.

Dan Butler, a dispute decision and litigation accomplice at legislation agency Jackson McDonald, declined to be drawn on the specifics of the Griffin charges.

Lack of accounts a ‘crimson flag’

However, Mr Butler mentioned charges regarding alleged failures to report monetary accounts have been critical and never taken evenly by ASIC.

Man with brown hair weather suit and tie smiling at the camera
Lawyer Dan Butler says ASIC has been cracking down on reporting lapses by corporations.(Supplied: Jackson McDonald)

He mentioned the company cop had been extra actively cracking down on alleged failures by firms to conform with reporting necessities underneath the Corporations Act.

“In idea at the least, a few of these offences have most imprisonment penalties of as much as 15 years,” Mr Butler mentioned.

“People can go to jail.

“It’s crucial to the functioning of the system that this stuff are stored up-to-date, they’re reviewed independently and that everyone can belief the numbers.”

According to Mr Butler, whereas it was not all the time the case, an organization’s failure to update its accounts was usually a crimson flag for its monetary well being.

He mentioned collectors reminiscent of suppliers and prospects invariably relied on correct info to evaluate the viability of one other firm and an absence of this meant they have been successfully flying blind.

“And taking a look at it retrospectively, if an organization does in reality change into bancrupt and go into liquidation, the failure to maintain monetary data may give rise to a presumption of insolvency … such that administrators may doubtlessly be responsible for bancrupt buying and selling for the interval wherein they’ve didn’t preserve these data appropriately.”

Greg Busson, the state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s mining division, mentioned staff had been downing instruments for an hour a day since late final month amid “frustration” with the corporate’s dealing with of the workforce.

Striking mine staff ‘fed up’

Greg Busson stands with his arms folded outside a building in Collie.
Greg Busson from the mining union says staff have run out of endurance.(ABC News: Daniel Mercer)

Mr Busson mentioned workers have been “fed up” after their enterprise deal with the corporate expired final yr and little progress had been made on hammering out a brand new one.

He mentioned staff have been unwilling to just accept pay freezes any longer after agreeing to cuts averaging $37,000 a number of years in the past and receiving subsequent to no will increase since.

“The motion is in response to frustration from staff who’ve put their religion within the firm and the corporate wasn’t ready to offer them a wage improve,” Mr Busson mentioned.

Mr Busson additionally mentioned the very fact ASIC was urgent criminal charges in opposition to Griffin was “worrying” and he questioned whether or not the corporate would have the capability to pay any additional penalties.

Griffin was contacted for remark.

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