Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes is funding the defamation case of 7 Queensland general manager Ben Roberts-Smith against Nine newspapers.
The Australian Financial Review reports Stokes, chairman of the War Memorial in Canberra, plans to donate the Victoria Cross and other medals awarded to Roberts-Smith to the Australian War Memorial if Mr Roberts-Smith is unable to repay a loan.
“The funding of his legal action is a private matter, however he has put his medals up as collateral on a loan and will relinquish them if required,” Stokes said.
“If this eventuates, I will donate his medals with Ben’s approval to the Australian War Memorial, as I have done so with other VCs and medals in the past.”
In addition to the Australian Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery, Roberts-Smith holds the Medal for Gallantry and a commendation for distinguished service. He has denied accusations levelled by Nine newspapers.
Mr Stokes was a co-founder of the SAS Resources Fund, set up after the 1996 Black Hawk helicopter collision near Townsville in which 15 SASR members were killed.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Stokes said the fund may be used to support current and former members of the SAS following an investigation by a special prosecutorial unit in the Department of Home Affairs. The identities of the 19 Australian soldiers accused of war crimes were redacted in the report.
“He supports all SAS soldiers, not just Ben,” spokesman Tim Allerton said. “It’s the whole SAS community.”
Seven is currently screening SAS Australia and will premiere SAS: UK next week.