Tinkler settles royalties, tax disputes

Debt-laden coal baron Nathan Tinkler has reached a settlement with former business partner Matthew Higgins, avoiding a long-running royalty dispute over a Queensland mine going to trial.

Debt-laden coal baron Nathan Tinkler has reached a settlement with former business partner Matthew Higgins, avoiding a long-running royalty dispute over a Queensland mine going to trial.

Mr Higgins' barrister, Douglas Savage, told the Supreme Court in Brisbane on Friday his client and Mr Tinkler had "settled their dispute" over royalty distribution for the Middlemount coalmine in central Queensland.

The proceedings were adjourned twice by Justice Philip McMurdo while last-minute negotiations took place. The dispute was over a reported $1.2 million in royalties Mr Higgins claimed were inappropriately distributed.

The proceeds were paid to a company called Oceltip, which is 75 per cent owned by Mr Tinkler's wife, Rebecca, and 25 per cent by Mr Higgins' wife, Ruth. Mr Higgins was seeking access to Oceltip's records amid concerns some royalty payments were going towards Mr Tinkler's private companies.

Had the undisclosed settlement not been reached on Friday, it would have proceeded to a costly trial.

In another development, the Australian Tax Office formally withdrew from a number of proceedings against Mr Tinkler's companies, after telling the Federal Court in Sydney debts had been paid. The ATO has been pursuing several of Mr Tinkler's companies, including the Newcastle Jets and his building arm, the Buildev Group, over unpaid debts.

In the Federal Court last week, Sharif Hammoud, representing the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation, said the Newcastle Jets and some of the Buildev companies had made payments to the ATO. On Friday, Mr Hammoud withdrew two matters relating to the Buildev companies and another matter relating to BD (Qld) Project, an associate company of the Buildev Group.

In relation to the proceedings against Buildev Development Qld, Mr Hammoud said: "The debt has been paid and the party is seeking to have the application dismissed with costs." District Registrar Michael Wall granted the application and ordered the development company to pay more than $4500 in costs.

In relation to the two other matters against Buildev Group and BD (Qld) Project, Mr Hammoud also sought to have the ATO withdraw from the proceedings, as the debt to the commissioner has been paid.

Registrar Wall adjourned those two matters until May 17, when it is expected the court will also hear about the outcome of proceedings against Newcastle Jets, Buildev Aviation, Buildev Development NSW and Hunter Valley Sports Group.

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