Bombshell letter from Lang shows Gina Rinehart knew she should share: court

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A 37-year-old letter uncovered during a document swap proves mining mogul Lang Hancock told daughter Gina Rinehart the Hope Downs sites she is fighting to retain were to be shared with his late business partner’s heirs, the WA Supreme Court has been told.

Wright Prospecting’s lawyer Julie Taylor, who is spearheading a bid to retrieve billions of dollars in royalties on behalf of Hancock’s business partner Peter Wright’s descendants, dubbed the letter “significant evidence” in court on Tuesday.

Gina Rinehart with her father Lang Hancock. Credit: Marija Ercegovac

In the letter written to Rinehart shortly after Wright’s death, unearthed by her eldest children Bianca Rinehart and John Hancock’s discovery process, Lang outlined the division of assets and stipulated his company Hancock Prospecting was to retain East Angelas, now known as Hope Downs 4, 5, and 6, jointly for the ‘Hanwright’ partnership.

“Lang and Mrs Rinehart knew and understood that those areas were held jointly for the partnership,” Taylor told the court.

“[Hancock Prospecting] was only entitled, at most, to a half interest in them.

“This is important to demonstrate Lang’s understanding of the partnership and, most importantly, that Mrs Rinehart has known since 1986 that the assets are held jointly by the partnership.”

The bombshell submission came after several hours of submissions on day two of the long-awaited trial, which will see Australia’s richest woman pitted against the billionaire heirs to her father’s former business partners’ empire, including his daughter Angela Bennett and his son Michael’s children, Leonie Baldock and Alexandra Burt.

But Wright’s descendants aren’t Rinehart’s only legal opponents, with the estate of forgotten pioneer Don Rhodes and Rinehart’s own children also claiming a stake in Lang’s most lucrative legacy.

The trial, expected to run for several months, centres around Wright Prospecting’s claim it was supposed to share equally in the spoils of any assets developed from Hancock and Wright’s 50-year alliance.

Wright argues it is entitled to a half-share of the royalties streaming out of the sprawling Hope Downs iron ore tenement Hancock Prospecting co-owns with operator Rio Tinto, now home to four operation mines deemed the country’s most successful.

Hancock Prospecting and its executive chair Gina Rinehart maintain the Hope Downs assets and their spoils belong to them, insisting they put in the work to claw them back and invest in their development after they were confiscated by the state government.

They have not had an opportunity to respond to Tuesday’s submissions.

The trial continues.

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