Channel Seven Billed $170,000 for Ben Roberts-Smith’s Witnesses’ Legal Fees

“I haven’t talked to anyone about” [payment] and they have brought nothing forward,” he said, suggesting the paper’s attorney Nicholas Owens, SC, denying that it was inconceivable that he would never have asked a question about payment.

Person 5 also said he had never spoken to Stokes or anyone else employed by Seven other than Roberts-Smith.

Owens handed over bills from the attorneys to Seven Network Operations that amounted to nearly $170,000 for legal representation not only for Person 5, but also for two other witnesses, Person 11 and Person 33.

The papers allege that in 2009, Roberts-Smith ordered a novice soldier to kill an unarmed Afghan prisoner and that Person 5, who cannot be named for reasons of national security, ordered the murder. Person 5 said he never killed a prisoner and never ordered a subordinate to do so.

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On Thursday, Person 5 told the court he had asked Roberts-Smith to put him in touch with a lawyer in May 2020, but said there was no discussion about who would pay the fees. Shortly thereafter, he was contacted by attorney Justine Munsie of Addison’s attorneys. She has been acting for him ever since. He also hired a lawyer.

When asked why Seven Network Operations was collecting his bills, Person 5: “I don’t know, maybe you can ask [the] Seven Network”.

Person 5 said he had never spoken to Stokes, had never heard of commercial director Bruce McWilliam and had not spoken to anyone at Seven except Roberts-Smith, who joined the company in 2012 but left his position early last year. laid down. to focus on the case of defamation.

Last year, The Age and Herald revealed that Seven West Media had loaned Roberts-Smith $1.87 million in corporate funds for his personal legal costs. Again, Seven’s loan was repaid by Stokes’ private company ACE. A deal between the family and Roberts-Smith signed in June 2020 required Roberts-Smith to pay ACE a 15 percent share of any funds he won in his smear battles.

Ownership Matters director Dean Paatsch, who specializes in governance and proxy advice, said it was “completely appropriate that private financing [for] this lawsuit must go directly through Mr Stokes. Seven shareholders have no interest in becoming litigation financiers.”

The papers, which defend the defamation deal bought by Roberts-Smith, have covered some of the costs of some of the witnesses in the case. It is not uncommon for parties to a legal proceeding to assist witnesses in their costs. Neither Seven nor Stokes is a match in this case.

Roberts-Smith is suing the papers over articles in 2018 saying he portrays him as a war criminal involved in the unlawful killing of Afghan prisoners. He denies all wrongdoing and says all murders were lawful and in the thick of the battle. The newspapers try to rely on a defense of the truth. The process continues.

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