JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Gina Rinehart turned to Olympic swimmer Grant Hackett for help in family trust battle, court hears

Date

Louise Hall

Grant Hackett and John Hancock at the latter's wedding.

Grant Hackett and John Hancock at the latter's wedding. Photo: Supplied



Mining magnate Gina Rinehart asked Olympic swimming champion Grant Hackett to convince her daughter Bianca to withdraw her nomination as trustee of the family's $5 billion trust two days before she was to give evidence in their bitter legal dispute.

Court documents show Mrs Rinehart emailed Mr Hackett on Sunday night, writing: "Suggest you advise her urgently please, no money is worth this, she should withdraw her nomination as trustee, rather than be found a liar in the witness box".

Bianca Rinehart outside the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney on Tuesday.

Bianca Rinehart outside the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo: James Alcock

Bianca, 37, took the stand in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday and told Justice Peter Brereton she was committed to taking on the role of trustee, a position vacated by Mrs Rinehart amid allegations of misconduct brought against her by Bianca, her older brother John Hancock, 38, and half-sister Hope Welker, 28.

The bitter dispute has split the family, with youngest daughter Ginia, 27, opting to side with her mother, who wants an independent custodial trustee appointed.

After months of bitter court hearings, Ms Welker settled with her mother and withdrew from the case in 2013.

Bianca Rinehart is in a legal battle to take control of the Rinehart family's multibillion-dollar trust.

Bianca Rinehart is in a legal battle to take control of the Rinehart family's multibillion-dollar trust. Photo: James Alcock

During a gruelling cross-examination from Ginia's barrister Richard McHugh, SC, on Tuesday, Bianca denied putting the legal action before her relationship with her younger sister, saying she and Ms Welker are closer than ever and she understood why Ms Welker pulled out.

"This litigation has taken a toll on all of us," Bianca said.

The court heard Ms Welker sent Mr Hancock an email in February 2013 that said: "All I feel is pain and anxiety. You are kicking me in the stomach but I'm already on the floor. Nothing left to take."

Grant Hackett received an email from Gina Rinehart asking him to speak to her daughter Bianca.

Grant Hackett received an email from Gina Rinehart asking him to speak to her daughter Bianca. Photo: Adam Hollingworth

But Bianca said emails between the siblings and their mother over the years, including her own concerns about Mr Hancock's drinking, gambling and "destructive" behaviour, and Mr Hancock's description of Ginia as "an oxygen thief" and "intellectually disabled" needed to be viewed in "context".

She did not invite any family members to her wedding to long-term partner Alexander "Sasha" Serebryakov in Hawaii last year because she wanted it to be a "happy affair".

If appointed trustee, she would not do Mr Hancock's bidding and would be fair to each of her siblings, who were made beneficiaries by their grandfather, the late iron ore tycoon Lang Hancock, she said.

She also denied suggestions she would find the role "too difficult" and inevitably resign, saying she was the only member of the family willing to subject herself to cross-examination in court.

"I believe my being here now shows my commitment," she said.

A copy of messages sent between Bianca and Ms Welker using the WhatsApp messaging system two days ago showed her relationship with Ms Welker is "stronger than ever", she said.

"Just wanted to say I'm taking your little chunk of iron ore with the engraved turtle with me into court and will hold it in my hand as it gives me strength knowing that I'm doing this for you (and Gin of course too), just wanted you to know that," Bianca wrote.

Ms Welker replied: "Sending you much love and all my strength."

Mr McHugh suggested that message was "completely self-serving and manipulative", which Bianca denied. 

Bianca's barrister, Christopher Withers, said the email to Mr Hackett was the latest in a string of "threats and intimidation" that she has endured since launching legal action against her mother in September 2011.

Bianca described Mr Hackett, who has recently fought a highly publicised battle with prescription medication addiction, as a "dear friend".

Court documents show Mr Hackett forwarded Mrs Rinehart's email to Bianca, writing: "Just got this from your mum. It probably means very little but do you want to discuss it with Sash/lawyers. Good luck – you've done the hard yards and you're obviously in a great position".

Mr Withers said Bianca's history of standing up to her mother shows she is "more than up to the task" of running the trust.

"Anybody who can stand up to that kind of conduct ... has got the strength of character to do this job," Mr Withers said.

He also said Bianca had been accused of acting dishonestly and copying sensitive company documents, all of which was an attempt to intimidate her.

"These are the kinds of things that have been said against her in this litigation," he said.

The hearing continues.

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo