Forrest fights Facebook’s bid for files in crypto scam court stoush
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Billionaire Andrew Forrest has been slapped with a subpoena at the hands of social media giant Meta, which is demanding his legal team’s private emails and details on how his crypto scam lawsuit against the company is being funded.
The mining magnate levelled a criminal case against Facebook in 2022 over cryptocurrency scam ads using his image after a failed public appeal to its founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Andrew Forrest levelled a criminal case against Meta – the owner of Facebook – in 2022 over cryptocurrency scam ads bearing his likeness.Credit: Bloomberg/Getty
Forrest claims Meta Platforms Inc breached Australian anti-money laundering laws by failing to stop the publication of fake advertisements to scam people.
The company has pleaded not guilty to three counts of recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime to the value of $1000 or more over the advertisements, which date back to early 2019.
The case took a turn in July, when Meta slapped Forrest with a summons as part of a highly charged court document swap.
In it, Meta demanded at least half a dozen files covering everything from litigation funding details to reports from third parties on advertisements using Forrest’s name and unredacted emails exchanged between members of his legal team.
But the billionaire’s lawyer Rachael Young fought the move during a two-hour hearing in Perth Magistrates Court on Monday, arguing it was oppressive, an abuse of process, and that the documents were subject to legal privilege.
Young told the court Forrest had already handed over 18 folders of evidence and called for a line to be drawn under the “exhaustive” two-year disclosure process.
She also argued the documents sought had no bearing on the case.
“The documents sought lack a legitimate forensic purpose and have no relevance to the case,” she told the court.
“There needs to be a reasonable possibility that the production [of the documents] will assist the defence, but there’s not.
“Given how long this has been going on, the length of time this has been ongoing, your honour ought not to make further orders for disclosure.”
Meta’s lawyer Paul Yovich, however, said the social media giant had doubts about whether the disclosure obligations had been fully complied with, claiming new files had surfaced in the ongoing tug-of-war over evidence.
“The typical response from the lawyers have been to say, and the exact phrase is of some importance, ‘There’s no further documents to disclose’, but what the submissions have said has been ambiguous … in effect, they cannot unequivocally say that there are no more documents,” he told the court.
“It’s apparent from the recent events that when the prosecutor says there are no further documents to disclose, one cannot have absolute confidence that is accurate.
“We’ve not simply asked for the kitchen sink, we’ve sought to identify the documents with as much precision as we can and address why we require them.”
Meta also sought to be released from a court undertaking which prevents the use of the uncovered documents in a separate lawsuit Forrest is spearheading against the company in California.
Magistrate Melita Medcalf adjourned the hearing, with a ruling on the document swap expected to be delivered on November 20.
The matter, which is being prosecuted privately before being taken over by the Commonwealth, is expected to be escalated to the District Court.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission dragged Meta to the Federal Court in March last year, claiming it engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by publishing scam ads featuring high-profile Australians.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, and penalties and wants the company to cover its court costs.
That case is still on foot, but the documents tendered are understood to have formed part of Forrest’s criminal case.
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