Private investigator hired by Adani photographed Aussie activist's daughter on way to school

Updated: 29 October, 2020 09:37 IST | IANS | New Delhi

Adani would not confirm whether it has ordered the surveillance of other people, or for what purpose

Gautam Adani. Pic/ AFP
Gautam Adani. Pic/ AFP

A private investigator working for Adani took covert photographs of Australian environmental activist walking his daughter to the primary school, The Guardian reported. The report said the affidavit of the investigator – who was instructed by lawyers representing Adani in the civil case against activist Ben Pennings – also revealed that he surveilled Pennings' wife, trawled her Facebook page and followed her to work. "Guardian Australia can reveal documents detailing the surveillance of Pennings and his family tendered to the Queensland Supreme Court in a recent Anton Piller case, in which Adani had sought permission to conduct an unannounced search of the activist's family home," the report said.

The Queensland Supreme Court and the court of appeal both rejected the move, saying the search could result in "humiliation and family distress". The report said that an e-mail from the law firm representing Adani against Pennings, Dowd and Co., instructed a private investigator, Garry Andrew Sweet, to conduct surveillance for "the consideration of vulnerable persons... at the time of execution of any search warrant". Sweet's affidavit also says that he told a colleague that his investigation of Pennings was "one of our Adani jobs".

Adani would not confirm whether it has ordered the surveillance of other people, or for what purpose. The surveillance of Pennings' family occurred in May. "I saw Mr Pennings depart the address in the company of a child," the affidavit said. Attachments to the affidavit include photographs of Pennings, his wife and children, obtained from her Facebook account. Pennings' wife, Rachel, said it was "creepy and unsettling not knowing if Adani will follow me and my child again, whether they will try to raid our home again", the report said.

Pennings said: "This is Adani all over. This is what Labor and the LNP actively support. Politicians would go berserk if anyone followed the partner and kids of a mining executive. Adani takes photographs of my daughter walking to primary school but unless anything changes this election, Labor and the LNP will still allow them to operate in Queensland." Adani said in a statement that its case against Pennings was to "safeguard and protect our legal rights as well as those of our employees and contractors".

"We have legally collected information through various means in support of our civil legal proceedings against Mr Pennings," the statement said. "We are unapologetic for exercising our legal rights and we will continue to use all legal means available to us to protect ourselves, our employees and contractors from individuals or groups who act unlawfully," it added.

The mining company building the controversial Carmichael coal mine is suing Pennings from the group Galilee Blockade for conspiracy, intimidation and breach of confidence.

Adani alleges that Pennings "orchestrated a sustained campaign" against the Carmichael project, in which he solicited confidential information about the construction process and used them to harass the contractors.

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First Published: 29 October, 2020 09:27 IST

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