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Clive Palmer’s assets frozen by Supreme Court over Queensland Nickel collapse

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Queensland Nickel's liquidator has won a Supreme Court bid to freeze Clive Palmer's personal assets in an effort to recover millions of dollars from the 2016 collapse of the north Queensland refinery.

Federal Government-appointed liquidator PPB Advisory sought an injunction in August to restrain the former federal MP from selling or spending more than $200 million in assets.

The freeze also affects more than $340 million in company assets related to Mr Palmer's business activities.

PPB Advisory is trying to claw back $70 million in taxpayer funds paid to sacked Townsville refinery workers.

More than 800 workers lost their jobs when the refinery collapsed.

Justice John Bond granted the order to freeze the assets of Mr Palmer and several of his companies.

Clive Palmer in a suit speaks to the media outside the Supreme Court in Brisbane.

Mr Palmer's lawyers applied for a stay on the freeze order for 21 days, but Justice Bond dismissed the application.

Mr Palmer was not in court for the ruling.

His barrister Dominic O'Sullivan applied to submit a copy of the Australian Financial Review's rich list as evidence that Mr Palmer could pay what was required of him.

The list named Mr Palmer as the wealthiest man in Queensland, with an estimated fortune of $2.84 billion.

Justice Bond said: "You're not going to hand me up the rich list are you?"

Mr O'Sullivan replied: "Yes I am."

Justice Bond asked: "How is that evidence?"

He rejected the rich list application.

In his written decision, Justice Bond said the orders "apply until final judgment or further order in the proceeding".

"In Mr Palmer's case the value specified was $204,943,664.39 but other amounts were specified for the companies concerned," Justice Bond said.

Lawyers for PPB Advisory had previously argued there was a "real risk" Mr Palmer's assets were being sold, pointing to the sale of his Brisbane headquarters Mineralogy House, worth $23 million.

His assets include planes, vintage cars, golf courses and a string of multi-million-dollar properties.

'It's a witch hunt'

In a statement, Mr Palmer's spokesman Andrew Crook said the court ruling was "further evidence of the political witch hunt against him".

"Despite the fact that Clive Palmer has been the fastest riser on the AFR rich list, coming in at the 20th most wealthy person in Australia with $2.84 billion, Justice John Bond has granted an order to freeze just over $200 million of his assets,'' Mr Crook said.

Businessman and former federal MP Clive Palmer arrives holding a sick bag to the Federal Court in Brisbane on May 16, 2017

"This extraordinary outcome in the Queensland Supreme Court seems out of step with what the AFR has highlighted and is further evidence of an ongoing witch hunt.

"If a freezing order can be made against Mr Palmer, then a freezing order can be made against any Australian."

The liquidator's injunction was filed as part of a wider lawsuit against 21 defendants, in which liquidators allege Mr Palmer and his nephew Clive Mensink breached their duties while running Queensland Nickel and traded while insolvent.

Mr Palmer recently lodged a counter-claim in the Supreme Court in Brisbane, suing liquidators for $1.8 billion for damages, and he has always denied any wrongdoing.

A date for a lengthy trial of the case is still being determined by the courts.

Justice Bond said the asset freeze would be subject to numerous exceptions, "including that it does not prohibit dealing with or disposing of assets in the ordinary and proper course of business, including by paying business expenses bona fide and properly incurred".

"There are particular aspects of Mr Palmer's previous conduct and decision making which would lead a prudent, sensible commercial person to infer that there is a real risk that he would take, or cause to be taken, steps outside court processes to attempt to frustrate or inhibit the prospects of enforcement or execution of any significant judgment against him or any of his companies," Justice Bond said.

"There is no certainty that that is what would occur.

"Indeed, I am not in a position to conclude that it is more probable than not that that is what Mr Palmer would do.

"But, endeavouring to take account of all the evidence before me, and conscious of the degree of care that I am obliged to take in applications of this nature, I nevertheless conclude that there is a real risk that he would."

'Getting his just desserts'

Townsville resident Lorraine said she had friends and family members who lost their jobs when the refinery collapsed.

"I'm glad Clive Palmer is now getting his just desserts — it's a long time coming but I'm glad it's come," she said.

Another resident, Stevie, said she was glad to see Mr Palmer's assets frozen.

"He's still carrying on like nothing's happened, going on cruises … it's not fair. He's just sticking it in everyone's face that he's wronged."

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