Palmer could be liable for Queensland Nickel's debts

Clive Palmer at his now-shuttered resort on the Sunshine Coast.
Clive Palmer at his now-shuttered resort on the Sunshine Coast. David Stuart

CLIVE Palmer may be personally liable for Queensland Nickel's debts if he is found to have acted as a director and operated the company while it was insolvent.

Despite telling the Sunshine Coast Daily he was "completely at arm's length" from his nickel business, Mr Palmer allegedly oversaw the company's operations using the alias "Terry Smith".

The Australian reported on Monday Mr Palmer used a Yahoo email address registered to a Terry Smith through which he approved Queensland Nickel purchases.

University of Queensland law professor Ross Grantham said if Mr Palmer is found to have operated as a "shadow director" and operated the company while it was insolvent he may be liable for its debts.

Queensland Nickel's procurement director Martin Brewster repeatedly sent emails to the "Terry Smith" email, addressing the recipient as "Clive" and requesting approval of new purchases.

Prof Grantham said the law recognised shadow directors as someone whose name was not a registered director but the "power behind the throne".

"If Queensland Nickel is in fact insolvent then the next question is did the directors, including Mr Palmer, know it was insolvent," he said.

"The directors have an obligation not to let their company trade while insolvent. If they have then they become liable."

The revelations come despite Mr Palmer telling the Sunshine Coast Daily last week he was not a director and was "completely at arm's length" from running the business.

"You can't have the balance of power and represent Fairfax and still be actively responsible in a company," Mr Palmer said.

Queensland Nickel administrators FTI Consulting would not confirm whether they were investigating the Terry Smith alias but said a "high-level update" would be provided at a creditors meeting on Friday.

A spokesman for Mr Palmer did not return phone calls on Monday. - APN NEWSDESK

Topics:  business clive palmer fairfax insolvency politics qni queensland nickel

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