Thursday, 10 January 2013 08:33
The activist at the heart of the Whitehaven Coal hoax could face a hefty fine or jail time if the corporate watchdog takes him to court.
Jonathan Moylan said officers from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have raided his camp in northern NSW and seized some of his property including a phone and laptop.
Mr Moylan, from the anti-coal mining group Frontline Action Coal, has admitted to sending a press release to media outlets claiming the ANZ Bank had pulled its $1.2 billion loan to the miner.
ASIC is investigating if any laws were broken after the hoax temporarily wiped $314 million from the value of the company.
Anyone convicted of disseminating false information to the market that could impact on market securities faces a maximum of almost $500,000 or a potential 10 year jail sentence.
"The penalties that apply here are really quite severe and they reflect the importance of market integrity to the Australian economy as a whole," ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer told ABC television on Wednesday.
Mr Moylan said earlier on Wednesday he understood there "may be very, very serious consequences for me" but said he was more concerned about the effects Whitehaven's plans would have on the environment.
Frontline Action Coal accuses Whitehaven of planning to destroy 1360ha of koala habitat and forcing farmers off their land through soil damage from its flagship Maules Creek project in NSW.
"The real on-the-ground impact going to be felt by the local community here is much more at the top of my mind," Mr Moylan told the ABC.
"These projects are continuing to be approved and generating the biggest crisis that humanity faces."
He apologised to Whitehaven's shareholders who lost money as a result of his hoax.
"I certainly didn't intend any harm to shareholders in Whitehaven," he said.
"But I won't apologise for exposing ANZ's dirty investments in Whitehaven Coal."
Whitehaven chairman Mark Vaile said the company would complain to the Press Council about media reporting of the hoax press release and see if it could take its own legal action against Mr Moylan.
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