Tax debt is Tinkler’s, not mine, says Williams

THE tax office is chasing former associatesof Nathan Tinkler for millions of dollars in tax owed by Tinkler Group companies.
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And the controversial businessman is facing personalbankruptcy over $US2.3 million ($3.3 million) debt being claimed by a finance company in relation to his former private jet.

Darren Williams, afounder of the Buildev Group that Mr Tinkler took control of in 2008, has confirmed the tax office is after him for almost $900,000 –money that he says should be paid by Mr Tinkler, not him.

TheNewcastle Heraldhas been told by people familiar with the situation that other former associates and family membersof the controversial businessman are also being chased with “directors’ notices” that could potentially reach $10 million or more.

The Australian Taxation Office’s interest in Mr Tinkler’s former associates appears to be part of a wider tax dragnet that includes the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation taking Queensland Supreme Court action againstMr Tinkler for $10 million in tax allegedly owed by two Tinkler Group companies.

The tax office action against the Tinkler Group coincides with news that Mr Tinkler and some new co-investors had contracted to buy the Dartbrook mine from Anglo American for $50 million.

Mr Tinkler is understood to still owe at least $400 million to his former financiers Farallon, with another $50 million owed to the Jeffries merchant bank in New York.

This is on top of the large numbers of smaller debts that Tinkler Group companies left with suppliers and other creditors across Australia.

The Queensland Supreme Court cases involve Aston Resources Investments for$6.4 million and Tinkler Group Holdings Administration for$3.5 million.

Queensland court records show both matters are due back in court on February 29.

When questioned by theHerald,Mr Williams said the Queensland action was against Tinkler companies –rather than Mr Tinkler as an individual –whereas the tax office was chasing him and other former Tinkler company office holders who had been left with liability for the tax debt.

Mr Williams said he did not expect people to besympathetic towards him, given the trail of debt and controversy that Tinkler Group companies had left in their wake, but he believed it was unfair to chase him –even if he was a director at the time the tax went allegedly unpaid –because Mr Tinkler was always the person in charge, and ran his businesses as a fiefdom.

PURSUED: Buildev founder Darren Williams is being chased by the tax office but he says it should be going after Nathan Tinkler, not him.

IN CHARGE: Nathan Tinkler took control of the Buildev Group in 2008 – Darren Williams says Mr Tinkler began using it as “his own personal construction company”.

Mr Williams said he was waiting to see the outcome of the Federal Court bankruptcy action that GE Commercial had taken against Mr Tinkler.

Court records show it washeard in Brisbane on December 14 beforeJustice Jacqueline Gleeson, who has reserved her judgement.

A lawyer familiar with the case told the Herald that if Justice Gleeson found for GE Commercial, Mr Tinkler would be immediately declared bankrupt.

Mr Tinkler had defended the matter by saying GE had used the wrong exchange rate calculation in converting the $US debt into Australian currency.

If he lost, and was declared bankrupt, it would probably impact on his ability to be part of the Dartbrook deal, given that a bankrupt would be unable to hold down a director’s position in a public company.

Australian Pacific Coal, which has signed an agreement with Anglo to buy Dartbrook, is a publicly listed company with Mr Tinkler as chief executive and managing director.

Asked whether it was concerned about Mr Tinkler’s potential bankruptcy, a spokesperson for Australian Pacific Coal said: “It is not the company’s policy to comment on hypotheticals”.

Mr Tinkler did not respond toHeraldquestions sent to him, personally,about the action against Mr Williams and others.

Mr Williams said he was no longer in contact with Mr Tinkler.

Mr Tinkleris reportedly living at aPullenvale, Queensland, property he bought soon after the Middlemount mine deal that sent him on the road to temporary riches.

He said Buildev had been “a good successful company” before Mr Tinkler bought into it and “began using it as his own personal construction company”.

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