Dudley Leitch.
Dudley Leitch.

Millions to mud: Leitch bankrupt

ONCE upon a time he was one of the kings of Australian mining who rode into Killarney like a white knight to take over the town's abattoir, but the tables appear to have turned in a big way for Dudley Leitch.

Some might say it's merely his latest move to out-fox his many creditors, but Mr Leitch and his wife Karen were formally declared bankrupt late last month, nearly four years after buying out the Killarney and Pittsworth abattoirs and meat wholesaler Condamine River Meats.

They also snapped up millions of dollars worth of farming property in the region - predominantly in the traprock country to the west of Warwick - which is now understood to be fully in the hands of Rural Bank.

And in a bitter twist to the sorry tale of the Leitch Pastoral Group, tenants on former Leitch properties have been ordered in writing this week to be out by the end of January, making it a miserable Christmas for many.

Documents filed in the Federal Magistrates Court show Mr and Mrs Leitch's application for bankruptcy was finalised on November 23, with creditors pallet-maker Chep Australia and Elders Rural Services delivering the final money-owing claim blow.

But there are plenty of others still left in the lurch who face even less of a prospect now of ever seeing their missing money.

When Leitch Pastoral collapsed in early 2010 after shutting down its abattoirs it left debts totalling a staggering $7.7 million, of which only a fraction has been paid back despite Mr Leitch continuing to flaunt his sheep breeding operations in the region.

Among those hurt by the Leitch saga is Todd Devenish of Meandarra-based Coomrith Cattle Company, who is still staring at a $170,000 hole in his balance sheet.

Mr Devenish said he was "disappointed but not surprised" to learn of the Leitch bankruptcy yesterday.

Mr Devenish said he felt "very doubtful" he would see his money.

Along with several other cattle suppliers he took Leitch Pastoral to court in May last year but the legal action has so far proved not only unsuccessful but also costly.

"You're forever hopeful of course, but it's not looking good," Mr Devenish said.

"Yes we're still owed $170,000 but with legal fees and court costs in the meantime you can probably double that figure by now.

"We've got a young family and with the dent in the cash- flow and the court costs it's hit us pretty hard.

"We felt we had a strong case with our contracts but nothing's happened and realistically I don't expect it will, if the money's just not there."

Along with creditors near and far, the Australian Taxation Office is also pursuing the Leitch's, lodging a Supreme Court claim for $592,843.75 in unpaid taxes in April.

But the ATO is far from finished with them, launching a second claim this very week for $998,589.07 in further unpaid taxes and Superannuation Guarantee Charges, plus interest and court costs.

It's a far cry from the heady days of Mr Leitch's mining-generated millions, which saw him regularly make the Queensland 100 Rich List, although he dropped back to number 94 in 2010, with an estimated wealth of $81 million.

One of his companies, Bolnisi Gold, grew to be the fifth-largest precious metals firm on the ASX 200 and he was profiled in metropolitan media as having grown up on the family cane farm at Beenleigh, having never lost his love of the land and relaxing by "getting behind the wheel of a tractor".

While his local creditors battled to stay afloat or went to the bank to go further into debt, Mr Leitch told the Daily News last August he saw himself as a "Mohammed Ali" character, on the ropes and "accepting the punches, until my time arrives to put right the record book".

Mr Leitch did not return a call from the Daily News yesterday but his current address is listed on court documents as Spring Creek Road, Cement Mills, near Gore west of Warwick.

Killarney Abattoir remains in bank hands and structures on the site are gradually being dismantled, with numerous sheds and workshops already gone and plant and equipment sold off earlier in the year.

A spokesman for Rural Bank yesterday refused to comment on their action in relation to Leitch assets, citing privacy reasons.

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