The Australian government was granted permission by a court on Friday to prepare legal action against coal baron Nathan Tinkler as creditors close in on the former billionaire, threatening to end a rags-to-riches story built on the nation's mining boom.
The New South Wales Supreme Court gave the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation leave to prepare a case against Tinkler's holding company, the latest of a series of legal actions over unpaid bills and commercial disputes. Further adding to Tinkler's woes, court documents also showed an Irish racehorse stud owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, has subpoenaed Tinkler personally to provide information in an unrelated case.
The emergence of two new, powerful potential foes is likely to unsettle Tinkler's lenders and raises questions about the future of his main asset, a near one-fifth stake in Whitehaven Coal, Australia's largest independent coal miner. "He's exposed to great liability," Marina Nehme, a senior law lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, told Reuters.
"It's like a house of cards falling. "Tinkler, 36, enjoyed a heady rise from mining pit electrician to Australia's youngest billionaire in just a few short years, riding on the back of the country's once-in-a-century mining boom. But a slide in coal prices has hit his net worth and a series of lawsuits have followed. Liquidators were appointed this week to two firms of which he is director, Patinack Farm Administration Pty Ltd and Mulsanne Resources Ltd, over debts totalling more than A$28 million. Tinkler paid creditors A$500,000 ($520,000) this week to stop wind-up petitions against Tinkler Group Holdings Administration Pty Ltd.
But the relief was short-lived when the Australian tax office stepped in to take over the action as a potential creditor. Senior deputy court registrar Rebel Kenna gave the tax office until December 10 to prepare a case against the company. The Australian Taxation Office declined to provide any further details on the case.
Andrew Korbel, a partner at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, who represented Tinkler Group Holdings Administration on Friday declined to comment outside court. Tim Allerton, a Sydney-based spokesman for Tinkler, also declined to comment.
Court documents show the Kildangan Stud Unlimited subpoena is to be heard by another New South Wales state court next week. Kildangan is part of Darley, the global breeding operation owned by Sheikh Mohammed, a keen equestrian and breeder with horse studs around the