The ghosts of a long-running corruption scandal have returned to haunt Pilbara junior Brockman Mining, with its chief executive having charges laid against him in Hong Kong over the past 24 hours.
Luk Kin Peter Joseph has confirmed that charges have been laid against him by Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption, which has been investigating him since October 2011. While the exact nature of the charges were unclear, Brockman said Mr Luk planned to defend the charges vigorously.
"Mr Luk has informed the company that charges in relation to certain alleged offences under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and the Crime Ordinance have been laid against him today by ICAC and he was currently on bail pending for the relevant hearings," the company said in a statement.
Brockman said the charges relate to an issue that occurred before Mr Luk joined the company.
Mr Luk has continued serving as chief executive over the past two years despite the corruption cloud continuing to hang over himself and his role at the company. Brockman indicated there would be no change to that stand, despite the matter progressing toward charges.
The charges come at an awkward time for Brockman, which is coming towards the end of a rail access dispute with Fortescue in Western Australia. Brockman has a massive, high-quality iron ore deposit in the Pilbara, but has no way of transporting the product to Port Hedland for export. Thus it has launched a hostile bid for access to Fortescue's railway under third party access laws.
That bid appears bound for at least one and possibly two arbitration sessions. Fortescue has refused to negotiate with Brockman so far, and has publicly questioned whether Brockman has the leadership capacity and financial firepower to develop its iron ore project.
Brockman's Australian boss, Russell Tipper, said he did not expect the charges against Mr Luk to damage perceptions of the company's managerial staff. "These sorts of regulator actions and matters happen from time to time. I guess I don't need to point you in the direction of our counter-party [Fortescue chairman Andrew Forrest] in terms of his run-in with ASIC. I don't think that diminishes your ability to manage the company," he said, in reference to ASIC's failed attempt to charge Mr Forrest with misleading investors, which culminated in October 2012.
Mr Tipper said Brockman's alliance with rail provider Aurizon - which would see Aurizon build and operate whatever additional transport infrastructure that Brockman might need - should also calm any concerns about managerial expertise. "We believe that we are going to be able to deal with the issue of managerial capability quite satisfactorily," he said.