We’re a few days out from Mother’s Day, a time when children around Australia will spend at least a little bit of time thinking about their mum.

We doubt Gina Rinehart’s children, John Hancock, Hope Welker and Bianca Rinehart, will be sending their mum a present on Sunday, given they are embroiled in a bitter legal war with her.

But the kids may spend at least a bit of time thinking about their mum this weekend. Specifically, they’ll be thinking: what is she up to?

Yesterday Gina’s lawyers told the NSW Supreme Court that she had divided up the family trust at the centre of the legal fight, giving her children (including Ginia, who has sided with her mother in the dispute) access to their share of a stake of almost 25% in Rinehart’s mining giant, Hancock Prospecting.

After Gina angered her children by changing the vesting date of the trust to 2068, her lawyers revealed to the court that the vesting date had been changed to April 30, meaning the kids can now notionally get access to the shares in Hancock Prospecting and dividends from the company.

The question is, why has Gina changed the vesting date and given the children access now? On the surface, it would appear a move designed to defuse the legal fight, but it’s not that clear cut.

Gina has previously warned the children that taking control of their portion of the Hancock Prospecting shares could trigger a capital gains tax bill of up to $150 million. And the children will have a hard time selling the shares to pay any tax bill, as the Hancock Prospecting constitution states that shares can only be sold to “lineal descendants” of Gina.

Further, dividends will only flow to the children through the trust if Hancock Prospecting — of which Gina still controls 75%, of course — actually decides to pay them.

Not surprisingly, John, Hope and Bianca are pushing on with their attempt to have Gina removed as trustee. “Nothing has changed,” John Hancock told The West Australian yesterday. “She still remains as trustee and we still want her removed. This does not affect our court action.

He and his siblings want dividends from Hancock Prospecting’s Hope Downs mine to be paid and backdated. The children say this should have been happening since January.

Finally, the kids want access to the trust’s financial records and the tax advice that says they could face big capital gains tax bills.

So the bitter battle looks set to continue, with the twists and turns that often lie at the heart of big-money legal fights.

The longer this fight goes, the more complex it becomes. And the more you wonder how a mother and her children can do this to each other.

*This article was originally published at SmartCompany

Peter Fray

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