Kerry Stokes has agreed to pay the costs for Ben Roberts-Smith’s failed defamation case, meaning that thousands of emails between Stokes, his corporate fixer Bruce McWilliam, and Roberts-Smith’s legal team will not be published.
Nine Entertainment has been pursuing Seven and Stokes’ private company, Australian Capital Equity, for costs related to Roberts-Smith’s defamation case.
Stokes and his companies had initially denied the third-party cost applications, however, they changed their minds after failing to produce thousands of documents showing communications during the trial.
By paying the legal costs of Ben Roberts-Smith’s opponents, Stokes stops the Federal Court from gaining access to thousands of emails that show how involved Seven (then ACE) was in the defamation trial.
As well as emails the communications include file notes, written correspondence, text messages, and messages on encrypted services such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram.
The matter will return to court on Tuesday.
Ben Roberts-Smith lost the defamation case in June this year after Justice Anthony Besanko dismissed his case and deemed him a war criminal.
Seven, then ACE, had funded the lawsuit via loan agreements with the soldier. His Victoria Cross and other awards have been put up as collateral against the loan.
Roberts-Smith had said he was defamed in 2018 by Nine Media newspapers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald plus the Canberra Times who claimed that he’d kicked an unarmed man off a cliff, and killed a prisoner before taking his prosthetic leg back home to be used as a drinking vessel.
The mammoth trial ran over 110 days, included 41 witnesses and is estimated to have cost more than $25 million in legal fees.
Unless Stokes and his companies seek costs from Ben Roberts-Smith they will likely pay the entire cost of the case.
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