Ben Roberts-Smith has taken immediate leave from his role at Seven Brisbane to focus on his upcoming defamation against Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
The Victoria Cross recipient is suing after the media outlets claimed he’d committed war atrocities during a deployment to Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012 and that he later assaulted his mistress.
The 42-year-old denies the allegations and says the reports are defamatory because they portray him as a criminal.
His decision to stand aside was announced in an eternal email to Seven staff via its CEO, James Warburton.
The email, that was forwarded to B&T, read: “I wanted to let you know that Ben Roberts-Smith will take leave from his role as General Manager, Seven Brisbane and 7Queensland, to focus on his upcoming legal matters.
“Ben’s leave will start today. Ben and I believe this mutual decision is best for both him and our company. We expect Ben to return to his role upon the completion of his defamation proceedings. As the trial is currently set down for eight weeks, it’s likely this won’t be until after August.
“While Ben is on leave, 7Queensland will report to Greg Gable the 7Queensland Sales Director, while Seven Brisbane managers will report to their respective department heads in Sydney. Local production will report to Troy Smith, Head of Technical Services,” Warburton said.
Last week it was reported that $1.87 million of Seven West Media funds had been loaned to Roberts-Smith to pay for private legal expenses, however, it was never disclosed to minority shareholders.
A further joint investigation by The Age, the Herald and 60 Minutes revealed that he former soldier allegedly dug a hole in the backyard and buried USB drives containing classified military information inside a lunchbox, hiding them from both police and military investigations.
Roberts-Smith joined the broadcaster back in 2014 after he was discharged from military service having earned a Victoria Cross, Medal of Gallantry and Commendation for Distinguished Service during his time in Afghanistan.
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