ANTI-MINING campaigner Jonathan Moylan will front the Supreme Court in Sydney for sentencing today over a hoax email last year that temporarily wiped about $314 million off Whitehaven Coal’s sharemarket value.
The 26-year-old, from Newcastle, faces a fine of up to $765,000 and/or 10 years in jail after changing his initial plea from not guilty to guilty in May to a charge under the Corporations Act of disseminating false information.
In January 2013, Moylan distributed a fake press release, purporting to be from ANZ, announcing the withdrawal of a $1.2 billion loan to Whitehaven Coal for the development of its $767 million coalmine at Maules Creek.
The document contained a made-up quote attributed to a senior ANZ executive saying that the bank would not invest in “coal projects that cause significant dislocation of farmers, unacceptable damage to the environment, or social conflict”.
Whitehaven Coal, which was then locked in a battle to secure approval for its Maules Creek coalmine in the Leard State Forest, was forced into a trading halt after the release prompted a flood of investors to dispose of the stock.
Moylan has been a frequent visitor to the region since he co-founded a protest camp – later relocated to private farmland – in the Leard State Forest, near Boggabri, in 2012.
He continues to receive support from fellow activists through a “Stand with Jono” campaign and can count
internationally-renowned scientist David Suzuki and political commentator Noam Chomsky as supporters.
A Facebook page titled “Silent Vigil: Stand with Jono”, encouraging people to attend court today and “respectfully demonstrate your solidarity”, contains a post from the moderator describing Moylan’s actions as opening up “an important conversation”.
“Big coal and gas companies are driving our political agenda while big banks like ANZ are profiting from polluting projects that destroy farmlands and water,” the post reads.
“And now a principled young man who took action for future generations is being faced with heavy penalties, whilst corporate criminals avoid prosecution.”
Maules Creek resident Rick Laird, who spoke in support of Moylan at a hearing last year, will be among the locals in Sydney today for the sentencing.
He told The Leader he did not believe Moylan’s actions deserved to be punished with a prison sentence
“Oh no, I don’t think so,” he said.
Moylan was unavailable for comment in the lead-up to his sentencing.