Anti-mine activist bailed over Whitehaven hoax
The man who allegedly sent a hoax press release from ANZ bank, which said the bank was planning to withdraw its financial support from a huge open-cut coalmine in NSW on ethical grounds, made his first appearance in court on Tuesday.
Jonathan Moylan, 25, is being prosecuted by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for disseminating false information.
When Mr Moylan allegedly sent the email in early January, the information it contained caused the value of shares in Whitehaven Coal - the mining company behind the $700 million Maules Creek coalmine - to plunge by $314 million.
Mr Moylan did not have the opportunity to plead because some documents relating to the case were still being sought.
ASIC issued a statement after Mr Moylan appeared in court, saying the maximum penalty if he were found guilty would be 10 years imprisonment or a fine of up to $765,000, or both.
A document tendered in court accused Mr Moylan of disseminating information which was "likely to induce persons in Australia to dispose of financial products, namely shares in Whitehaven Coal".
Mr Moylan's court appearance comes just weeks after Gomeroi traditional owners picketed the Maules Creek project, claiming the mine would destroy more than 1619 hectares of forest and artefacts that were culturally significant.
It also comes after the Northern Inland Council for the Environment lodged a legal challenge with the federal minister responsible for granting the project conditional approval earlier this year - the former federal environment minister Tony Burke.
Mr Burke has been accused of breaching environmental laws when he did so.
Whitehaven Coal was granted final approval on July 4 to begin construction on the project, but the process hit a hurdle when the Northern Inland Council lodged its legal challenge.
Mr Moylan was granted unconditional bail.