A New South Wales minister sued for libel has detailed in court documents how a luxury car dealership allegedly scammed its high-end customers.
NSW Minister Matt Kean hit back in the libel case brought against him by a luxury car dealership, filing a 90-page truth defense alleging the Sydney man defrauded repeatedly his high-end clients to support his bankrupt business.
Bevin Ronald Clayton is suing the MP for Hornsby in Federal Court over a statement released three and a half years ago warning the public to avoid his Woolloomooloo dealer Clayton Bespoke.
Mr Clayton, who was charged with fraud offenses in 2017 and acquitted last year, says the then Minister for Regulatory Improvement falsely portrayed him as a dishonest dealer who scammed clients to the tune of over $ 1 million.
In his lengthy defense, Mr Kean alleged that Mr Clayton used the money he earned from selling luxury cars on consignment to support his ailing dealership instead of paying the sellers what was owed to them.
Mr. Clayton’s attorney, Sue Chrysanthou, criticized the defense as a “rehash of an unsuccessful lawsuit against my client.”
It details alleged transactions relating to an impressive number of luxury cars, including a Rolls Royce Phantom, a Ferrari Scaglietti, several Range Rovers and a 1971 Ford Falcon GT.
It is alleged in the document that Mr. Clayton sold the Phantom for just over half a million dollars and used the money to cover the costs and losses of the business, leaving the owner out of pocket. – a model he repeated with several cars, from a Mini Cooper to a Maserati.
“I am working through this and you will get paid. There is no fraud, ”he reportedly emailed a customer after five checks for the sale of his Bentley Mulsanne were turned down.
According to the document, directors appointed to Clayton Bespoke in 2017 discovered that he had issued 66 bad checks totaling $ 7.8 million over a 10-month period.
A subsequent report found that $ 4.9 million was potentially owed to the company’s customers and financiers, according to the defense.
Mr. Clayton alleges that Mr. Kean defamed him by portraying him as someone so unreliable and dishonest that a public warning from the Minister was required.
He also says he has been falsely portrayed as someone who “failed to account to his customers for large sums of money and, in some cases, even for their vehicles they had given him for sale.”
Mr Kean contends that his statement did not actually suggest these defamatory things about Mr Clayton, but if it did, all but one of the imputations – that Mr Clayton is a criminal sued by NSW Fair Trading and NSW Police – are true.
In an alternative defense, Mr. Kean argues that he cannot be prosecuted for the statement because he was performing his duties under the Fair Trading Act.
Mr Kean also contends that the statement was in the public interest and that he acted reasonably in publishing it, given his responsibility to consumers as the relevant minister.
In a brief case management hearing on Thursday, Ms. Chrysanthou said the defense claims “come as no surprise” as they had already been made and failed in criminal court.
She said Mr Clayton was “concerned” that Mr Kean was trying to delay the case with a late defense and a slow timeline.
But lawyer Tim Senior said the Environment Minister was “certainly not” willing to delay and needed months to gather a lot of evidence.
The parties were sentenced to mediation, which Ms. Chrysanthou said she had “little hope” of success.
Mr Clayton was charged in 2017 after 11 complaints and 16 inquiries about Clayton Bespoke to NSW Fair Trading.
In May 2020, he was acquitted on appeal by the district court on three counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage through deception and one count of providing false documents.
Clayton Bespoke went into receivership on September 25, 2017 and his car dealership license was canceled the following month.
NSW Fair Trading told NCA NewsWire in May that it was no longer pursuing any action against Mr. Clayton.
The case returns to court in August.