ASIC seizes hoaxer’s phone and computer

AN ANTI-coalmining activist camped out near Boggabri could face legal questioning as soon as next week for his role in the Whitehaven Coal and ANZ bank hoax.

Newcastle activist Jonathan Moylan, of the Front Line Action on Coal group, had his laptop and mobile phone seized by the nation’s peak corporate and financial services regulator last night.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) took the unorthodox move to travel to the group’s camp site at the Leard State Forest, where they have been protesting against Whitehaven’s proposed Maules Creek Coalmine for nearly 160 days.

Mr Moylan, 24, says he co-operated fully with ASIC and could now face questioning in Sydney next week if he can get legal representation.

On Monday Mr Moylan orchestrated an elaborate hoax against the miner in an attempt to bring attention to what he says will be the destruction of more than a thousand hectares of koala forest habitat if the mine goes ahead.

He posed as an ANZ employee and issued a fake media release claiming the bank had pulled the $1.2 billion loan that would have funded Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine, on ethical and environmental grounds.

Whitehaven’s shares immediately plunged by 27 cents, temporarily wiping $314 million from the value of the company, following circulation of the fake news that its biggest project could be a failure.

The stunt lasted just more than an hour after Mr Moylan reissued a media release on behalf of the front line group, confessing to the spoof email.

The whole thing was performed from the Leard Forest camp.

While Whitehaven later condemned his actions, and shareholders reportedly threatened legal action, Mr Moylan says he has received widespread support from some local residents.

“They’ve been trying to bring attention to the mine for some time and they’re over the moon that we have,” he said.

He has also received endorsement from the Greens party, as well as attention from national media outlets, including an interview opportunity with ABC’s 7.30 Report.

Mr Moylan admits the consequences for him could be quite severe, including fines and jail time, but it was more important to protect the Maules Creek community.

Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said Mr Moylan’s actions went too far and the authorities should throw the book at him. 

He told The Leader the front line group’s mode of operation was to try and target projects not yet in operation.

“They’ve picked up on Maules Creek because of the Liverpool Plains issue, and they’re trying to piggyback off that,” Mr Haggarty said.

“There’s no broad-based opposition we can see and it’s always the same handful of the same extremist group.”

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