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Corby cash trail exposed in court

The Australian

April 03, 2007 02:00am

Mercedes and Schapelle Corby / Supplied
Lucrative ... Schapelle Corby's sister Mercedes, left, is entitled to 85 per cent of the $350,000 paid for the rights to Schapelle's story / Supplied
  • Women's Weekly paid $110,000
  • Mercedes entitled to 85 per cent of advance
  • Corbys unaware of actions until proceeds frozen

CONFIDENTIAL documents filed in a Queensland court lift the lid on the secretive world of celebrity book negotiations, revealing that Pan Macmillan paid $350,000 for the rights to drug-smuggler Schapelle Corby's story.

The Australian Women's Weekly paid a further $110,000 to publish an extract from My Story, the memoir Corby co-wrote with Kathryn Bonella.

The publishing contract shows that Schapelle's sister, Mercedes Corby, is entitled to 85 per cent of the $350,000 publisher's advance and any future royalties earned from the book, which has sold more than 100,000 copies.

On March 2, the Queensland Court of Appeal froze $267,500 wired into the bank account of Mercedes's husband, Wayan Widyartha, by Pan Macmillan as part of the advance. The federal Director of Public Prosecutions is moving to seize the money under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The publishers were about to wire another $68,000 owed to Mercedes from syndication rights before the successful appeal by the DPP of a Brisbane District Court decision on February 15.

The documents reveal the protracted and complex negotiations among the Corby sisters, Bonella and Pan Macmillan.

An email from Bonella to publisher Tom Gilliatt reveals that the writer had concerns about losing the money to the Australian Government through the proceeds of crime laws long before the Court of Appeal froze the book's profits.

In the correspondence last October, Gilliatt reassures Bonella she would face no problems.

"My understanding is that you're at no risk since the act is to stop those convicted of a crime profiting from it (and even that's arguable in court)," he says.

Gilliatt indicates it would be best for Mercedes Corby to send an invoice to the publisher so she can be "paid before the book becomes public knowledge".

Bonella also reveals to the publishers she is using an alias while staying in Indonesia and that documents should be addressed to "Lisa".

The Australian Federal Police seized the emails and tracked the movements of Bonella and a number of Pan Macmillan employees through the Immigration Department.

In an affidavit, AFP agent Elizabeth Corkery tells the court she suspects the payments to Mercedes are meant for Schapelle.

While court documents reveal Pan Macmillan knew about the police action in December, it is understood the Corbys and Bonella were not aware of the court case until the freezing papers were served on Schapelle, Mercedes and her husband in Bali in late March - almost three weeks after the hearing.

The AFP argues that the amounts should be refunded under the act. However, there are questions concerning how much money is left in Widyartha's Indonesian account.

The publisher wired $76,500 to Widyartha's account at the Bank Negara Indonesia 15 months ago and the balance of $191,250 arrived two months before the court order.

The documents reveal that News Limited papers paid $2000 for an exclusive picture and secondary rights to My Story, but the organisation that publishes The Australian was assured "Schapelle Corby will not receive any money".

Another $15,000 was earned from a story written by Bonella with Mercedes that appeared in New Idea this year.

The Corbys have argued the money will be used to fund on-going legal action.

Mercedes Corby revealed last night she had launched defamation action against the Seven Network's Today Tonight program in the Supreme Court of NSW. A statement of claim was filed in the court registry last Friday.

Defendants in the case include Today Tonight presenter Anna Coren and reporter Bryan Seymour, as well as Jodie Power, the woman who alleged the family had a history of drug use.

"The untrue allegations have been very hurtful to me and my family and I am relieved that it is now before the courts," Mercedes said.

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