The Walton collapse left Sunshine Coast sub-contractors $2.9m out of pocket.
The Walton collapse left Sunshine Coast sub-contractors $2.9m out of pocket. Warren Lynam

Walton says: I can’t recall

LEGAL counsel for Walton Construction Pty Ltd's liquidator Grant Thornton has reserved the right to recall sole director Craig Walton later in the three-day examination into his collapse leaving more than 1300 unpaid creditors.

That recall, which would have him return after evidence is taken from his accountants, business advisers and the National Australia Bank, is different to the lack of recall that he exhibited in the witness box yesterday.

The three-day hearing in the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne into the $80 million collapse of Walton Construction Pty Ltd and Walton Construction Qld Pty Ltd in October 2013 is being funded by the Queensland Government and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

Mr Walton and his former chief financial officer Melissa Chalker were the first to give evidence exhibiting a shared lack of recall about key events in the 18 months preceding the companies' demise.

As company head he received an annual salary of $400,000 up until the business closed its doors while Ms Chalker continued to pocket her $160,000 salary for months after the collapse to provide her expertise to phoenix companies Lewton and Peloton which took over key Walton assets in the days before the end.

Both those businesses ultimately were also liquidated.

The head of what once was a three-state commercial construction operation licensed to undertake nearly $400m worth of contracts annually, Mr Walton repeatedly answered "I don't recall" to questions about the detail of the business he owned and for which he was ultimately responsible.

The Walton collapse left Sunshine Coast sub-contractors $2.9m out of pocket for work they did and materials they supplied to the Nambour Coles project.

Mr Walton could offer the court nothing about the detail of a 2012 internal restructure of his company even after being provided with a diagram. Nor could he remember whether his banker had been informed or was aware that it took place.

Both Mr Walton and Ms Chalker, despite being the two signatories to the company's accounts, could also not explain why Walton Qld paid LNP fundraising arm Altum Pty Ltd $146,000 on May 4, 2013, at a time when it was in financial stress and under bank pressure.

Altum was the owner of Walton Queensland's Brisbane headquarters and under the terms of a three-year lease was to receive $351,000 a year. Neither could recall why Altum was paid $560,000 in 2012.