HIGH-profile anti-coal campaigner Jonathan Moylan must wait to learn his fate after his sentencing hearing in the Supreme Court was adjourned without decision yesterday afternoon.
The 26-year-old, who has pleaded guilty to one count of disseminating false information to the stock market, was joined at court by an estimated 100 supporters, including a contingent of Maules Creek residents.
In January last year, Moylan composed a fake media release, under ANZ’s letterhead, saying the bank had withdrawn a
$1.2 billion loan facility to Whitehaven Coal earmarked to fund construction of the Maules Creek mine in the Leard State Forest. The hoax, which was reported as fact by some of the 98 media outlets to which it was sent, prompted panicked investors to offload the stock, temporarily wiping more than $300 million off the company’s sharemarket value.
Newcastle-based Moylan, who co-founded the Leard State Forest protest camp in 2012, faces a fine of up to $765,000 and/or 10 years in jail over the stunt, which he has claimed was never intended to influence the market.
During yesterday’s hearing, Moylan’s barrister Robert Sutherland SC told the court his client was simply trying to raise awareness about the bank’s backing of the mine, which he considered was environmentally destructive.
“He was seeking to embarrass (ANZ),” Mr Sutherland said.
Moylan supplied the court with a written statement in which he apologised to shareholders – particularly those whose retirement savings had been affected – saying that “they have a right to feel deceived and injured”.
Crown prosecutor David Staehli SC did not push for a custodial sentence, but said the defendant’s deception involved “extensive planning and premeditation”, including paying $27 to set up the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maules Creek farmer Rick Laird, whose family has farmed in the district for more than 150 years, travelled to Sydney to show his support for Moylan.
“ANZ’s loan means Whitehaven Coal can turn Maules Creek from a farming village into an open-cut pit,” he said.
“We rely on groundwater to water our livestock and for our household water supply and the Whitehaven Coal mine will lower our water table by five to 10 metres.
“We’ve been fighting this mine for years and the stand that Jono took means that people now know what’s happening at Maules Creek.”
Justice Davies will hand down Moylan’s sentence at a later, undisclosed, date.