Heir to Australian mining fortune fights his billionaire sister in court – claiming she hid the size of family’s true wealth in one of Australia’s biggest fraud cases
- Julian Wright sold his stake in Wright Prospecting for $6.8 million in 1987
- The company starting mining iron ore in Pilbara and is now worth billions
- Wright claims he was not told about the potential of the business prior to the sale
Lawyers for a West Australian mining heiress have rubbished her younger brother’s claim he was deliberately misled about the value of the family company before he sold back his stake, arguing he was ‘manifestly aware’ of its financial matters.
Julian Wright, the third child of Lang Hancock’s business partner Peter Wright, is suing the estate of his late brother Michael Wright and sister Angela Bennett, alleging he was not told about Wright Prospecting’s potential.
Instead, negative financial projections flowed ‘freely’ and he ended up selling his share in the company for $6.8 million in 1987, his lawyer Pat Zappia said in a marathon opening address in the WA Supreme Court this week.
Julian Wright (pictured left), the third child of Lang Hancock’s business partner Peter Wright, has alleged in court that he was not told about Wright Prospecting’s potential
Julian Wright is suing the estate of his late brother Michael Wright (pictured) and sister Angela Bennett
Wright Prospecting partnered with Hancock Prospecting to pioneer the Pilbara iron ore industry and is now worth billions of dollars.
On Friday, Ms Bennett’s senior counsel Kristina Stern told the court Julian Wright was an active director in Wright Prospecting who participated in board meetings and ‘was at all times comprehensively advised by lawyers’.
Documents displayed in court showed Julian Wright asked questions about overseas interests, but Ms Stern said he was ‘very aware’ about it ‘at all times’, adding it was in ‘some ways motivated by tax minimisation’.
There was no reason to reach the conclusion there was any concealment, she said, and he was well armed to investigate further if he chose to.
According to one particularly explosive document, Julian Wright asked about insurance premiums flowing offshore and Michael Wright replied their lawyer Carnie Fieldhouse knew about it but it was ‘best not to know’.
Wright Prospecting partnered with Hancock Prospecting to pioneer the Pilbara iron ore industry and is now worth billions of dollars. Pictured is founder Lang Hancock
Julian Wright replied that sounded illegal and if the law was being broken he wanted no part in it, only to be accused of breaking the law ‘every day with tax evasion’ and told not to be a hypocrite.
Central to Wright Prospecting’s argument is Julian Wright’s action being ‘utterly fatal’ because a settlement in 2008 saw his children receive $70 million and included an agreement he not sue his siblings over the will.
The trial continues.