Gina Rinehart has divided up the family trust at the centre of her multi-billion dollar battle with three of her four children, forfeiting control over when and if payments were made to her children.
In a surprise move, revealed this morning in the NSW Supreme Court, Mrs Rinehart has brought forward the vesting date of the trust from 2068 - a key factor in the current court dispute - to April 30, 2012, meaning it has technically vested.
The shares are now being held in a new, bare trust, rather than the single discretionary trust that had previously existed.
But while the four children - John Hancock, Biana Rinehart, Hope Welker and Ginia Rinehart - are able to call on their share of the Trust, which contains 23.45 percent of family company Hancock Prospecting, at any time, they are unable to reap any benefits because under the company's consttution any shares can only be sold to a lineal descendant of Mrs Rinehart's late father, Lang Hancock.
This means they can only be sold amongst the children, none of whom can afford to buy them, or Mrs Rinehart.
The children will also only benefit from any Hancock Prospecting dividends which flow on to them if the company, which Mrs Rinehart controls, decides to issue them.
But it does mean that Mrs Rinehart's 25-year-old youngest daughter, Ginia, the only one to have sided with her mother in the dispute, is no longer in a position to take control of her siblings' shares, and the distribution of any dividends, if her mother handed over the role as Trustree.
"Nothing has changed. She (Mrs Rinehart) still remains as trustee and we still want her removed. This does not affect our court action," Mr Hancock said this morning.
He said he and his siblings were calling on the Hope Downs dividends - worth around 25 percent of the cash flow from the company's flagship mine - to be paid and backdated. Under an earlier agreement between their mother and the company, the four children were supposed to have been receiving payments from January.
The children are also demanding access to the trust's financial records, dating back more than 20 years, which Mrs Rinehart has refused to provide.
The bitter and protracted court battle is expected to play out in the NSW Supreme Court later this year.
The West Australian revealed in March that the catalyst for the family split was a surprise letter Mrs Rinehart sent her children in September last year, telling them that she planned to delay the vesting of a multi-billion dollar trust which had been set up for them by Lang Hancock.
The letter was sent three days before the trust was due to vest on her youngest daughter, Ginia’s, 25th birthday.
In documents before the NSW Supreme Court, her three estranged chidren have accused her of “deceptive, manipulative and disgraceful conduct” in her handling of the trust.
The mining billionaire — who is one of the world’s 30 richest people and the richest person in Australia — recently lost a fierce six-month battle to keep the court case a secret.