Queensland Nickel 'paid $6 million' towards Clive Palmer's stalled Titanic II project
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Queensland Nickel 'paid $6 million' towards Clive Palmer's stalled Titanic II project

February 2013 was a heady time for Clive Palmer. In glamorous ballrooms in New York and London, amid 11-course degustations and flowing champagne, the world was finally ready to hear his grand plans for the Titanic II.

At a press conference aboard the USS Intrepid - after a guy with a guitar sang My Heart Will Go On - the Australian billionaire told an excited media pack the replica vessel would represent no less than "the reconciliation of man".

"The Titanic was a ship of dreams," Mr Palmer said. "Titanic II will be the ship where dreams come true."

But now those dreams are looking more like nightmares, as the mining magnate's business ventures continue to unravel.

Clive Palmer in New York's Times Square in February 2013.

Clive Palmer in New York's Times Square in February 2013.Credit:Twitter

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The company in charge of the Titanic II, Mr Palmer's Blue Star Line, was paid almost $6 million by the now-collapsed Queensland Nickel, according to a report released by administrators on Tuesday.

QN was found to have paid $3.3 million in marketing costs associated with the Titanic II launch events in New York and London. It also paid $1.9 million in project management fees.

The current director of QN, at least on paper, is Mr Palmer's nephew Clive Mensink. Mr Palmer, a former director of the company, was accused of acting as a shadow or de facto director for the past four years - a claim he denies.

The payments to Blue Star Line were "uncommercial and director-related transactions", the administrators found, and along with many other payments they painted a picture of "reckless" behaviour by Mr Palmer and Mr Mensink. FTI Consulting will refer the matter to the Australian corporate regulator, ASIC, with Mr Palmer to face possible criminal charges.

The scene from inside the London gala dinner.

The scene from inside the London gala dinner.Credit:YouTube

Meanwhile, the administrator has recommended that QN be liquidated. And in a bad sign for the Titanic II, they have flagged an intention to claw back the $6 million paid to Blue Star Line.

Mr Palmer was already fending off scepticism that his hobby horse would never see the light of day. Amid the fanfare in New York, he announced the ship's maiden voyage would take place in 2016 - that has already been pushed back until 2018, and according to reports, no construction is taking place at the Chinese shipyard where it is supposed to be built.

Clive Palmer and wife Anna meet astronaut Buzz Aldrin in New York.

Clive Palmer and wife Anna meet astronaut Buzz Aldrin in New York.Credit:Twitter

Confirming information about the status of the Titanic II is difficult. Fairfax Media sought interviews with Mr Palmer directly, and through his media adviser, Andrew Crook. Neither returned calls or responded to texts. Mr Palmer released a statement on Tuesday morning labelling the FTI Consulting report "derogatory and untrue".

Blue Star Line directed Fairfax Media to Mr Crook's company, Crook Media. Asked whether the Titanic II was currently under construction, a representative said: "I wouldn't have any idea about that, so I can't help you."

The Titanic story enjoyed a resurgence following James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster film.

The Titanic story enjoyed a resurgence following James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster film.

During his New York sojourn, Mr Palmer stayed at the $2000-a-night Waldorf Astoria, and dined at the exclusive Manhattan restaurant Cipriani with astronaut Buzz Aldrin

The Titanic II launch events in New York, London and Macau, for which QN paid $3.3 million, were five-star affairs - even if evidence of the indulgent dinners is hard to track down.

The Manhattan event was originally planned for December 2012 as a star-studded gala for 700 guests aboard the USS Intrepid off Manhattan. Caroline Kennedy and Eunice Shriver, respectively the daughter and sister of late president John F. Kennedy, were to be among the guests of honour. Mr Palmer is a director of the JFK Library Foundation, and Ms Kennedy is the board's honorary president. Since 2000, he has reportedly donated nearly $US5 million to the foundation.

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John Shakespeare

After Hurricane Sandy tore through the US east coast late in October of 2012, the launch was postponed until February 26 of the following year. Journalists were briefed at a press conference, and Mr Palmer reiterated plans for a gala dinner that night - including an 11-course meal prepared by 60 chefs, a replica of what was served on the Titanic's ill-fated 1912 voyage.

Fairfax Media was almost unable to find photographic evidence of the evening - there are none even on Mr Palmer's personal Twitter account. But an attendee posted a 40-minute YouTube video outlining each of the 11 courses, which included oysters, Nova Scotia salmon and Angus fillet mignon with foie gras and truffles. Musical entertainment came courtesy of the NYPD Pipe Band.

During his New York sojourn, Mr Palmer stayed at the $2000-a-night Waldorf Astoria, and dined at the exclusive Manhattan restaurant Cipriani with astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Brisbane's Courier Mail reported that Mr Palmer was a no-show at the Macau leg of the Titanic II publicity tour. But he did turn up at The Ritz hotel in London for another press conference and a gala dinner at the Natural History Museum.

The 40,000 tonne ship was to carry 2435 passengers and 900 crew, and was estimated to cost around $500 million. Throughout the tour, Mr Palmer declined to put a figure on it.

"I have enough money to pay it, so that's all that really matters," he said.

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Michael Koziol is the immigration and legal affairs reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in Parliament House