$45m Rinehart deal to switch sides
Family feud: Gina Rinehart. Picture: Kee Hua Chee

A few days before Christmas, a stressed Hope Welker emailed her lawyers from Paris and said she wanted out of the long-running court battle which had torn apart the House of Hancock.

Months earlier, broke and recovering from a marriage breakdown, she dropped out of the costly legal action she had launched against her mother Gina Rinehart and faced off against the two siblings she had previously sided with.

She seated her lawyers alongside her mother's in the NSW Supreme Court.

The rearranged courtroom chairs in Australia's most famous family feud saw Mrs Rinehart, her company Hancock Prospecting, Hope and Hope's sister Ginia on one side and John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart on the other.

Both factions were locked in a dispute over management of the multibillion-dollar family trust.

Late last year, John and Bianca began chasing evidence that the new playing field might not be level. They sought a range of documents which would reveal if their two youngest siblings had done any deals with their mother.

Put simply, they believed Hope and her younger sister, Ginia, had signed secret agreements which effectively ended their money woes but meant the mining magnate had control over their views in the court stoush.

As revealed this week, Hope had indeed signed two lucrative agreements when she changed sides.

The deals gave the cash-strapped 30-year-old $45 million as long as she agreed to a string of conditions, including a promise that she wouldn't "disparage" her mother and would not help John and Bianca in any way.

The deals were also carefully drafted to also prevent John and Bianca from benefiting in any way from Hope's windfall. The deals were secret but John and Bianca began a lengthy court discovery process, spooking Hope who feared the deals would be exposed.

So a few days before Christmas, she told her lawyer, Mark Deutsch, to draft a letter to her siblings' legal team telling them she "no longer wishes to exercise her right to have her views, wishes or preferences as to the identity of the proposed trustee taken into account by the court".

She also wanted any previous views she had expressed disregarded and said this meant there was no need for John and Bianca to seek details of any deals.

Mr Deutsch counselled her against it, saying it would stop her having any say in court over the future of the family trust.

He said John and Bianca appeared to know of at least one of the deeds.

Despite Hope's insistence that she wanted little more to do with the court battle, at some point she changed her mind.

The letter to her siblings was never sent and she has since given her support in court to a trustee proposal put forward by Ginia and backed by Mrs Rinehart and Hancock Prospecting.

John and Bianca's lawyer, Christopher Withers, told the NSW Supreme Court this week that Hope's $45 million deals meant she may not be "freely expressing her views" but was instead parroting the views of Mrs Rinehart and Hancock Prospecting.

Lawyers for Hope and Ginia argued against their siblings getting access to further documents. Hope's legal team also denied the $45 million was a "settlement" for dropping out of the legal action against her mother.

The West Australian

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