Sydney – In November 2010, Clive Palmer donned a Santa hat and posed in front of photographers as he gave A$10m of Christmas bonuses, including 55 Mercedes cars, to staff at Townsville’s Yabula nickel refinery.
It was the height of the commodities boom and the Australian mining magnate, who later turned his hand to politics, was celebrating the success of his acquisition of Queensland Nickel from BHP Billiton in 2009.
“It [Queensland Nickel] provides me with about US$250m of beer money a year. That’s why I’ve got larger and fatter, thanks to BHP,” he later joked to mining executives.
But the subsequent collapse in nickel prices has put paid to celebrations at Queensland Nickel, which was placed in administration last month with debts of A$100m. It has also raised questions about the financial health of Mr Palmer’s troubled business and political empire, which Australian Electoral Commission data published on Monday showed were connected.
Between 2013 and 2015, Queensland Nickel made two donations of A$15m and A$6m to the Palmer United party — the political party founded by the colourful 61-year-old businessman in 2013 and which won several seats in parliament in the September election that year. Mineralogy, another company owned by Mr Palmer, separately donated A$3.6m in 2014-2015.
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