Aussie coal hoaxer in court
The man who allegedly sent a hoax press release from ANZ bank, which said that ANZ was planning to withdraw its financial support from a huge open-cut coal mine in NSW on ethical grounds, made his first appearance in court today.
Jonathan Moylan, 25, is being prosecuted by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for making false and misleading statements in that email.
When he sent the email in January this year, the information in the email caused the share price of Whitehaven Coal - the mining company behind the A$700 million ($812 million) Maules Creek coalmine - to plunge A$314m.
But in Downing Centre local court on Tuesday, Moylan was granted unconditional bail.
Moylan did not have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty because some documents relating to the case are still being sought.
Moylan sat in the back of the courtroom, clean shaven and in suit pants and shirt.
About 60 protesters and friends were outside the courtroom to show their support for him.
In court, Magistrate Jacqueline Milledge spoke good-humouredly to Moylan: "Are you the Jonathan that has all the friends out the front?"
Moylan nodded quietly.
Outside the court, Maules Creek farmer Rick Laird stood with Moylan's supporters.
Laird's family has lived in the Maules Creek area since the 1830s.
If the mine were to go ahead, up to 25 families could be forced out of their homes and the endangered Box Gum forest would potentially be devastated, he said.
Laird said he had been protesting the proposed mine for a couple of years now, and he supported Moylan's action because it finally brought the issue to the attention of the media.
"We tried protesting the mine in and around the forest, and the media from Sydney didn't really give it any airplay, but we've had a lot of airplay since the hoax," he said.
"I'm here to support Jonathan today, just in the same way that Jonathan supported farmers in Maules Creek."
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission issued a press release after Moylan appeared in court, saying the maximum penalty, if he were found guilty, would be 10 years imprisonment or a fine of up to A$765,000, or both.
Moylan would not answer questions from media following his court appearance.
But Laird, who is an angus beef producer and also has wheat, canola, and cotton crops, said the proposed coal project would create a lot of dust and lower the water table, and that this would endanger his livelihood.
"My own cattle may not be able to be watered if [the water table] goes down any more than 3 or 4 metres, and they're saying [it will go down] up to 7 metres."
Sydney Morning Herald