Australian activist Jonathan Moylan, who sent out a fake press release on behalf of ANZ bank, claiming the withdrawal of $1.2 billion (£710m) of funding from a coal project and causing a $300 million (£176m) drop in the company’s share price has been given 20 month suspended sentence.
Moylan, 26 from Newcastle in New South Wales, used the media email address and logo of the major Australian bank to send the press release, which said the bank had pulled $1.2 billion from Whitehaven Coal’s planned project in Maules Creek.
In the press release, the activist said on behalf of the bank that the reason for the divestment was the volatility of the coal market and incompatibility with the bank’s corporate responsibility policy.
The move caused a $300 million drop in the mining company’s share price and although it was initially thought that Moylan could face up to 10 years in prison, he was first released on bail and has now been given a 20 month suspended sentence.
Justice David Davies said during the sentencing that Moylan was not “a criminal in the classic sense”.
“It is clear the offender has been prepared to break the law on a number of occasions to further the causes which he believes in,” he said.
However, he said that some investors lost money or their investment in Whitehaven completely and his action resulted in many shares being traded.
The Maules Creek coal project in the Leard State Forest has met fierce opposition by environmentalists, who argue the destruction of the forest will have disastrous impact on the wildlife, local residents and water quality.
Photo: oatsy40 via flickr