Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest person, has lost a legal battle to keep details of a family feud private, leading to controversial email exchanges with her children being published in the Australian press.
On 9 March, the High Court of Australia upheld a ruling by an appeals court that allowed documents about the case to be made publicly accessible. The case revolved around the management of the family’s trust – three of Rinehart’s four children took her to court accusing her of allegedly abusing her role as trustee of the fund.
“The proper conduct of trustees requires close public scrutiny,” said one of the High Court judges presiding over the case.
Rinehart reportedly told her children they could become bankrupt unless they agree to let her continue to control the multi-billion-dollar trust set up by her late father, Lang Hancock.
She also said in an email to Bianca Rinehart, John Hancock and Hope Welker – her three children – that they would become liable for “tens of millions in capital gains tax”.
In one email, Rinehart warned her daughter that she was risking her and her children’s lives by pursuing legal action.
“Any prolonging of this unnecessary and irresponsible action and ‘fishing trip’ and lawyer feast will cause continuing media attention and greater jeopardy for the safety of you and your children and family,” she wrote to Hope, as reported in the Australian media.
Rinehart’s youngest daughter Ginia is the only one who hasn’t taken her mother to court. In a statement released by the 25-year-old, she said it was “very painful” to see the family disagreement out in public.
“This case is motivated entirely by greed and I have no doubt that one day soon my brother and sisters will regret putting money before family. Unfortunately, this realisation will come too late as the damage to our family and its good reputation will already have been done,” she added.
Ginia was recently appointed to the board of Hancock Prospecting, the mining powerhouse founded by her grandfather.
The ongoing legal case stems from control of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, which holds about a quarter of the family’s wealth. John, Bianca and Hope first took action against their mother in September last year, but tried keeping the disagreement out of the public spotlight.
Rinehart, worth an estimated $18 billion in 2012, according to Forbes, almost doubled her fortune last year. She is now ranked the 29th richest person in the world.