Jour­nal­ist de­fends story in li­bel case brought by bil­lion­aire Chau Chak Wing

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Aus­tralian As­so­ci­ated Press

A for­mer Fair­fax jour­nal­ist be­ing sued for defama­tion says he had only in­tended to raise the strong sus­pi­cion that Chi­nese-Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire Chau Chak Wing had bribed the UN pres­i­dent.

“I thought it was prob­a­bly true but it was not my pur­pose to be pros­e­cu­tion, judge and jury,” John Gar­naut tes­ti­fied in the fed­eral court in Syd­ney on Thursday.

He was giv­ing ev­i­dence in Dr Chau’s defama­tion ac­tion against him and Fair­fax Me­dia over an on­line story pub­lished in Oc­to­ber 2015.

The busi­ness­man, phi­lan­thropist and po­lit­i­cal donor says the article con­veys four defam­a­tory mean­ings in­clud­ing that he bribed for­mer UN pres­i­dent John Ashe and was part of a plot to bribe him.

Gar­naut, who was Fair­fax’s Asia Pa­cific editor at the time, tes­ti­fied that he took great care to not con­vey those mean­ings in his story.

“I took great care to write it as a pos­si­bil­ity not as an ac­tual fact,” he said.

The article was pub­lished af­ter US pros­e­cu­tors ac­cused busi­ness­woman Sheri Yan and her fi­nance chief of ar­rang­ing for a $US2000,000 bribe to be paid in 2013 to Ashe, who had ap­peared at a func­tion at Dr Chau’s Guangzhou re­sort.

Dr Chau’s lawyer Bruce McClin­tock SC re­ferred to an in­ter­nal Fair­fax email writ­ten be­fore the article’s pub­li­ca­tion in which the jour­nal­ist wrote “he’s fucked”, re­fer­ring to the bil­lion­aire.

Gar­naut de­nied he meant “he’s guilty”, say­ing it “was just me say­ing he is in trou­ble”.

The email was sent af­ter Gar­naut, who was in New Delhi, spoke on the phone to Dr Chau’s daugh­ter Winky, who was in a car in China.

She told him: “The whole thing is a mis­un­der­stand­ing ... we are go­ing to is­sue a state­ment to clar­ify the whole thing” be­fore the line cut out.

Gar­naut told the court he thought she was stalling, sounded flus­tered and prob­a­bly hung up on him, which gave him strong grounds for be­liev­ing no in­no­cent ex­pla­na­tion was go­ing to be forth­com­ing.

“I want to sug­gest your con­clu­sion that you drew from this con­ver­sa­tion, that he’s fucked, was en­tirely un­rea­son­able and ridicu­lous,” McClin­tock said.

Ear­lier he told his lawyer James Hmel­nit­sky SC that he had come to be­lieve that a co-con­spir­a­tor re­ferred to as CC-3 was Dr Chau who “on the face of it was the al­leged bribe giver”.

In in­ves­ti­gat­ing the story, he spoke to Yan’s hus­band, Roger Uren, who told him his wife would never do any­thing she be­lieved to be il­le­gal or im­proper.

Uren also told him Dr Chau had paid $US200,000 to Ashe as a speak­ing fee and Uren didn’t be­lieve it was a bribe.

The hear­ing con­tin­ues be­fore Jus­tice Michael Wigney.

Pho­to­graph: Peter Rae/AAP

Chau Chak Wing is claim­ing the on­line Fair­fax article con­tained four defam­a­tory mean­ings.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.