Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron faces  jail for allegedly hiding her stake in infant formula maker Bellamy’s during a bitter battle for control of the company.
Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron faces jail for allegedly hiding her stake in infant formula maker Bellamy’s during a bitter battle for control of the company.

Kathmandu founder faces five years in jail

Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron faces up to five years in jail for allegedly hiding her stake in an infant formula maker that was swept up in a bitter battle for control.

The corporate cop has hit Ms Cameron - one of the nation's most successful female entrepreneurs - with criminal charges.

It alleges the richlister masked the extent of her stake in Bellamy's Australia by using a shelf company based in a notorious Caribbean tax heaven.

The size of her holding only came to light during a fierce battle to overthrow the board of Bellamy's in 2017.

Ms Cameron, whose personal fortune has been estimated at more than $400 million, made her mark on the corporate scene by founding outdoor clothing and camping goods chain Kathmandu in 1987.

Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron.
Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Friday said it was charging the Tasmanian-based businesswoman after she failed to disclose she had a stake of almost 15 per cent in Bellamy's when it listed in August 2014.

Ms Cameron controlled the stake, totalling 14 million shares, through an interest in a company called The Black Prince Foundation that was domiciled in Curacao, ASIC alleges. Curacao is a Caribbean island favoured by the super-wealthy for its tax and privacy advantages.

Australian law requires investors to lodge substantial holder notices when they have voting stakes of 5 per cent or more in listed companies.

ASIC further alleges Ms Cameron made false or misleading statements when, in February 2017, she lodged a substantial holder notice that did not properly disclose a relationship with Black Prince.

Ms Cameron's association with Black Prince was unearthed amid a shareholder revolt at Bellamy's that resulted in former chief executive Laura McBain and two directors being ejected.

She waged a battle to take effective control of the board by seeking to replace four independent directors with her own picks.

Former Bellamy’s chief executive Laura McBain.
Former Bellamy’s chief executive Laura McBain.

The Tasmanian-based infant formula maker gave details of Ms Cameron's association with Black Prince after it issued the Curacao-based entity with a tracing notice. Such notices require shareholders, in this case Black Prince, to disclose details of all people with relevant interests.

During the battle, Ms Cameron said she had nothing to do with Black Prince.

Ms Cameron was a director of Bellamy's from May 2007 to May 2011, selling her stake as it was acquired by Chinese dairy group Mengnui last year.

She faces up to five years in prison for making a false or misleading statements in a document, and six months in prison for failing to lodge a substantial holder notice.

The action against Ms Cameron came as John James Merity, the former managing director of mining explorer Northwest, on Friday received a two-year jail term in New South Wales' District Court for giving false or misleading information to ASIC about a shareholding.

Ms Cameron, 67, is due to appear before the Hobart Magistrates' Court in March.

john.dagge@news.com.au



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