ACT News

Defendants ordered to pay $70 million to Commonwealth

A group of Albury-based businesspeople have been ordered to pay almost $70 million to the Commonwealth.

And a number of the group will also be forced from their homes by order of the ACT Supreme Court.

But the defendants have signalled they could continue the marathon 16-year legal battle in a higher court.

The case began when about $8.72 million of taxpayers' funds were transferred illegally to two companies linked to Davis Samuel Corporate Advisory Services in 1998.

The money was then invested in other companies or used by the shareholders to purchase assets.

The Commonwealth unsuccessfully attempted to prosecute criminal charges against 26 investors in Davis Samuel.

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But the investors beat the allegations and launched a $4.3 billion civil claim against the Commonwealth.

The lawsuit claimed the group had lost that amount when they were prevented from introducing a lottery style capital-raising plan to Australian financial markets.

The civil case was heard in 2008 and involved 30 defendants and a complex web of claims and counter-claims.

Justice Richard Refshauge, in a decision in August last year, rejected the $4.3 billion claim after finding the original $8.725 million payment had been void and illegal.

The judge found the businesspeople were liable to the Commonwealth and gave leave for it to attempt to recover the funds.

Justice Refshauge on Friday published proposed his orders and reasons.

The court ordered 13 of the defendants to pay the Commonwealth a total of $69,106,986.57.

Assets - including shares, homes, a car, and a stamp collection -  worth millions more was also ordered to be forfeited to the Commonwealth.

"Where a defendant has knowingly assisted in the transfer of [taxpayers funds], the relevant defendant is liable to pay equitable compensation to the Commonwealth," Justice Refshauge wrote in the decision.

"The knowledge [by the defendants] that these funds were paid in breach of the fiduciary obligations ... owed to the Commonwealth meant that these funds were recoverable by the Commonwealth.

 "Compensation should be computed by reference to the detriment suffered by the Commonwealth."

Bill Forge, 78, who was given 42 days to vacate his Albury home, said the defendants intended to appeal decision.

"Our position is clear, we believe there's been a miscarriage of justice," Mr Forge said.

"Up until now, we've been self-represented, but we've now had discussions with lawyers who are interested in picking up the case."

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