Queensland Nickel’s administrators have pledged to pursue Clive Palmer’s mining and property interests to recover around $200 million owed to creditors of the troubled nickel refinery.
Administrator John Park, of FTI Consulting, said a liquidation of the refinery would seek to recover funds from Mr Palmer’s flagship company, Mineralogy and his shuttered Coolum resort.
Mr Park alleged the businessman turned politician had spread money from Queensland Nickel across his empire.
“At a very high level, we saw Queensland Nickel as what I would say the piggy bank, the treasury,” said Mr Park.
“The money was coming through Queensland Nickel in the better times and it was being dissipated amongst the Palmer empire entities”.
Queensland Nickel could have traded for a few more years if money wasn’t taken out of the business, Mr Park said.
Administrators are seeking $73.9 million for employee entitlements and $116.18 million in unsecured claims.
In a report released on Tuesday, FTI said it has identified “significant transactions” entered into by the Palmer-owned Queensland Nickel as appearing to be uncommercial or director-related.
“These transactions could be recovered in a liquidation scenario,” FTI said.
FTI has recommended that Queensland Nickel creditors vote in favour of the company being wound up at a second creditors meeting on April 22.
The administrators reported that from February 2011, about $224 million of Queensland Nickel funds was transferred to director-related parties or paid by the company “on behalf of director-related parties”.
Mineralogy and Palmer Leisure Coolum were the largest recipients.
The investigation also reported that more than $189 million of related party loans was forgiven and $26 million of Queensland Nickel funds were transferred as political donations and sponsorships.
Mr Park said FTI is eyeing Queensland Nickel’s joint venture partners, QNI Resources and QNI Metals, which are owned by Mr Palmer.
FTI is in the process of finalising a report to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which will outline potential offences by Mr Palmer and his nephew Clive Mensink, the sole director of Queensland Nickel and QNI Resources.
The administrators said Mr Palmer and Mr Mensink “in our view, appear to have been reckless” in exercising their duties as directors of Queensland Nickel.
FTI found that Queensland Nickel had been insolvent since November but went into administration in January.
The administrators said Mr Palmer appeared to have acted as a shadow director “at all material times”.
“Our observations indicate Mr Palmer, a former director of the company, appears to have acted as a shadow/de facto director of QN at all material times from February 2012 up to the date of our appointment on 18 January 2016,” FTI said in the report.
The administrators also said Mr Palmer was a signatory to authorise transactions on three bank accounts in Queensland Nickel’s name.
He formed part of the company’s expenditure approval process committee as chairman and held the highest level of authority.
If FTI are appointed liquidators, they will need to secure funding from either a government funding body or external funders to carry out their future work.