Richest Australian: How much money does Gina Rinehart control?

Gina Rinehart gave her daughter gave her a $45 million loan in return for taking a back seat in the family spat. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

The daughter of Gina Rinehart, Hope Welker, was warned by her lawyer that her mother and younger sister would be "most annoyed" if she bowed out of a bitter court battle engulfing the family rather than supporting their choice of replacement trustee to head up a $5 billion family trust which Mrs Rinehart's four children are equally entitled to.

The email was sent in December last year after Hope told her lawyer the litigation was causing her a "high degree of distress" and she wanted to avoid telling siblings John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart that her mother gave her a $45 million loan in return for taking a back seat in the family spat.

Hope Welker in a file photo.

Caught in the middle: Hope Welker. Photo: Jeff Atkinson

Mark Deutsch from Deutsch Miller told 28-year-old Hope to "think very carefully" before making a final decision not to be heard on who should be trustee, because "withdrawing your 'voice' as a beneficiary is likely to increase the chances the plaintiffs' proposals . . . will succeed".

He also warned Hope to weigh up how "damaging" information might be that could come to light should she choose to have an active say in who would replace her mother as trustee.

That damaging information was two separate loan agreements between Mrs Rinehart and Hope to lend her $45 million in return for forfeiting her voting rights in relation to the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, which is at the centre of the litigation and was set up by Lang Hancock for his grandchildren before he died. It holds 23.4 per cent of the family's flagship company, Hancock Prospecting.

The documents were handed over as part of discovery of documents in the case after lawyers for John and Bianca sought to find out if the other two siblings were being influenced by their mother. John and Bianca have been vying for a lineal descendent to be appointed as trustee, whereas Mrs Rinehart and daughter Ginia want an independent trustee.

Twisted history

The dispute erupted in 2011 just days before the trust was due to vest when youngest daughter Ginia turned 25, after Mrs Rinehart told her children they would be bankrupted if the trust was allowed to vest and demanded further powers. The three eldest children sued in the NSW Supreme Court and subsequently accused their mother of deliberately deceiving them and breaching her duties as trustee. Hope later settled with her mother and withdrew as a plaintiff.

As part of the loan, Hope also promised not to sell or transfer her interest in the Hancock Prospecting shares and gave up her voting rights in relation to the shares, signing them over to her mother, who already owns the remaining 76.6 per cent.

Hope is also prohibited from disparaging her mother, or helping her elder siblings John and Bianca in their fight against their mother and Ginia. Hope shall not "cause, procure, finance, support, encourage, provide documents or evidence for or otherwise assist or facilitate" any claim or prosecution brought by another person, the deeds say.

The loans are seven years in duration, but the full amount is repayable if any of the key requirements under the deeds are not met.

It was the prospect of this information being seen by her siblings that resulted in Hope questioning whether to pull out of the case completely, but in his email of December 16, Mr Deutsch told her there were serious risks associated with that course, including that Hope could not object if a trustee she did not support was appointed.

"I know when we last spoke the litigation was causing you a high degree of distress and retreating to this truly neutral position has the potential to allev­iate and shield you from future stress," he wrote. "That said, I imagine taking this step . . . will bring its own short-term stress in dealing with the other defendants' annoyance/disappointment."

Mr Deutsch suggested Hope give her mother and sister Ginia at least a "heads up" one day before she told lawyers for her other siblings.