One.Tel saga takes another twist

Special purpose liquidator serves statement of claim on News Ltd, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Consolidated Media Holdings

The One.Tel saga has taken another twist with News Ltd, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Consolidated Media Holdings served with statement of claims documents by the special purpose liquidator of the failed junior telco.

The statement of claim has been served over One.Tel’s cancellation of a $132 million capital raising on the same day that it entered administration.

In a statement, Pitcher Partners Paul Weston said the special purpose liquidator is seeking to determine whether any rights of action exist surrounding One.Tel's cancellation of the capital raising on 29 May 2001.

Consolidated Media Holdings (ASX:CMJ) confirmed it was served with documents by the special purpose liquidator of One.Tel and said in a statement to the ASX it would “strongly defend the proceedings”.

"I consider the case against the defendants to be strong and the prosecution of the claim to be in the best interests of creditors," Weston said.

"The service of the statement of claim is a significant milestone in my administration.

"It represents the culmination of my investigations, my overcoming substantial obstacles and my subsequent success in obtaining external litigation funding."

In February, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) gave up on its appeal against a verdict by the NSW Supreme Court dismissing its claims against the founder of One.Tel, Jodee Rich, and finance director, Mark Silbermann, in a long running court battle.

In mid-November 2009 ASIC lost the landmark case against the founder of One.Tel, which collapsed in late 2001 owing companies led by the Murdoch and Packer families about $1 billion.

In handing down the verdict, Justice Austin found ASIC's case had a "superficial appeal, but time and again they were shown to be unpersuasive when the underlying financial detail was investigated".

ASIC had alleged Rich and Silbermann had failed to meet their duty of care in the months leading up to the company's collapse in May 2001.

The duo escaped a corporate ban and compensation payments to creditors of about $92 million.

Justice Robert Austin also said the telco would likely have survived if a proposed $132 million rights issue had been able to go ahead.

In related news, in the first week of August, a High Court decision said the trustee of former One.Tel chairman John Greaves is free to continue legal action to have CGU Insurance Ltd cover a $20 million compensation order.

The latest development comes ahead of the annual general meeting of OneTel creditors on Thursday.

Additional reporting by AAP

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