The corporate watchdog has interviewed the man who issued a press release falsely claiming that the ANZ Bank had withdrawn funding for Whitehaven Coal.
Jonathan Moylan, from the anti-coal mining group Frontline Action on Coal, has admitted to sending a press release to media outlets in early January claiming that the ANZ Bank had pulled its $1.2 billion loan to the miner.
Frontline Action on Coal accuses Whitehaven of planning to destroy 1360ha of koala habitat and forcing farmers off their land through soil damage from its flagship Maules Creek project in NSW.
The false media release bore the ANZ Bank logo.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is investigating if any laws were broken after the hoax temporarily wiped $314 million from the value of Whitehaven Coal in the trading of the company’s shares on the Australian Securities Exchange.
‘‘He (Mr Moylan) has walked into the (ASIC) building in Sydney. We will be interviewing him today,’’ an ASIC spokesman said.
The ASIC spokesman said the interview would be conducted in private and that ASIC would not be issuing any comment on it.
Mr Moylan told AAP after his interview by ASIC that he could not comment on what was said during the meeting.‘‘Unfortunately, that would be illegal,’’ he said.
Asked how he was feeling after the ASIC interview, Mr Moylan said: ‘‘Well, I’m still determined to campaign, and win the campaign on the Maules Creek mine.
‘‘I’ve said it before that any consequence for me pales in comparison to that on our farmers, our forests and our planet.’’
Anyone convicted of disseminating false information to the share market that could impact on market securities faces a maximum fine of almost $500,000 or a potential 10-year jail sentence.
Mr Moylan said in an article that he wrote and which was published in Fairfax media outlets today that the federal government’s verdict on whether to approve the Maules Creek mine was more important than the risk he faced of going to jail.
Meanwhile, The Nature Conservation Council of NSW on Thursday called upon the federal government to reject Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine proposal.
The Council also urged the federal government to investigate whether Whitehaven had provided correct information as it seeks approval for its proposal under federal environmental law.
Nature Conservation Council chief executive Pepe Clarke said Whitehaven Coal planned to clear more than 500 hectares of critically endangered white box-gum woodland, which requires offsets of the same ecosystem type to be protected elsewhere.
‘‘However, the areas that the company has mapped as endangered white box-gum woodland in their proposed offsets are in fact a totally different vegetation type,’’ Mr Clarke said in a statement.
Comment was being sought from Whitehaven.