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Wanted property developer Jean Nassif and two of his companies must pay almost $1 million in security as the price of continuing his defamation case against Sydney radio station 2GB and host Ray Hadley.
A warrant was issued for Nassif’s arrest in June over an alleged large-scale fraud. His daughter Ashlyn has been charged with falsifying documents to keep money flowing from a $150 million Westpac bank loan to her father’s property empire.
Ray Hadley and Jean Nassif.
Separately, Nassif’s construction empire, including Toplace Pty Ltd and dozens of related entities, was placed into administration in July.
Nassif was believed to be travelling between Lebanon, Singapore and the Philippines earlier this year and remains outside Australia.
Radio 2GB’s owner Harbour Radio, which is owned by Nine, the publisher of this masthead, sought a Federal Court order earlier this month forcing Nassif or his companies to pay $1.5 million in security to cover its legal costs in the event it successfully defends the case, which was filed in 2020.
In a judgment on Tuesday, Senior Judicial Registrar Paul Farrell said there was a “real risk” Nassif would not return to Australia “at least for the foreseeable future”.
He was satisfied there was also a risk Nassif and two of his companies, JKN Hills and 51 OCHR Pty Limited, would be unable to cover a costs order made against them if 2GB and Hadley successfully defended the defamation case.
Farrell ordered Nassif and the two companies to pay a combined $900,000 in security in three tranches of $300,000 at specific intervals, including a first instalment of $300,000 within 28 days.
The second instalment is due 14 days after any order listing the case for final hearing, and the final $300,000 is due at least 28 days before the first day of the trial.
The security must either be paid into court or take the form of a bank guarantee, Farrell said.
The case will be dismissed if Nassif or his companies fail to comply with the order for the first $300,000 within 42 days. If they do not comply with orders relating to the second two tranches of security, 2GB and Hadley can apply to the court to have the case dismissed.
Nassif and the two companies are suing over a series of broadcasts in 2019 and 2020 that they claim convey a range of defamatory meanings, including that they “had built apartments that were ‘so bad and shoddy’ that purchasers were entitled to succeed in legal actions against them”.
Farrell said the evidence before the court showed Nassif senior owned a property in Chiswick in Sydney’s inner west.
“There is no evidence of the value of this property. Currently, the property is subject to two mortgages and four caveats.”
He said the evidence about JKN Hills suggested the company “is, to say the least, not in a solid financial position” and corporate records from March 2023 indicated it had “paid up capital” of $110.
Meanwhile, receivers and managers were appointed to the second company, 51 OCHR, in March.
“A balance sheet for [51 OCHR] … as at June 2021 indicates a deficiency of assets to liabilities of $66 million while a profit and loss statement for the financial year ended 30 June 2021 reveals a net loss of more than $16 million,” Farrell said.
He noted Nassif’s solicitor said in an affidavit that Nassif’s personal bank accounts had been closed and his business accounts had been frozen. There was no indication “as to whether this situation is likely to change at some stage in the future”, he said.
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