The anti-coal campaigner who temporarily wiped more than $314 million off the value of Whitehaven Coal with a hoax email has been charged after an investigation by the corporate regulator.
Jonathan Moylan tricked investors into thinking that a $1.2 billion loan arranged by ANZ for Whitehaven had been cancelled on ethical grounds.
Shares in Whitehaven, which then had struggling coal baron Nathan Tinkler as its biggest shareholder, fell from $3.52 to $3.21 before the stock was put into a trading halt.
The incident was the third time in six months that trading on the Australian Securities Exchange has been influenced by a hoax.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission confirmed that Mr Moylan was charged with one offence of breaching section 1041E of the Corporations Act, covering the making of false or misleading statements.
Mr Moylan reportedly sent out the hoax press release from his laptop in the Leard State Forest in New South Wales.
Some media outlets published a story on the hoax release, but later retracted it.
The Lock The Gate Alliance slammed the charge as a double standard. Alliance president Drew Hutton said it was “extraordinary” that Mr Moylan was facing jail.
“We are asking ASIC to reconsider their decision and withdraw the prosecution – the penalty is clearly disproportionate to the offence and Mr Moylan has apologised to anyone affected by his actions,” he said. “Whether you agree with his actions or not, Mr Moylan’s intent was obviously just to tell the world about the plight of the people and environments at risk from this massive coal mine.”
Mr Hutton said the campaigner had felt the full force of the law, which “multi-national mining giants rarely feel in this country”.
He said Mr Moylan had sought to focus the nation’s attention on “how the proposed Whitehaven coal mine will destroy thousands of hectares of Leard State Forest”.
The alliance said Mr Moylan would appear before Downing Centre Local Court on July 23.
Mr Moylan faces up to 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of $495,000.
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