WING FAIRFAX DEFAMATION COURT
Chinese-Australian billionaire Chau Chak Wing says he fears he will suffer a heart attack after his reputation was seriously damaged by a Fairfax Media article which "is saying I was a criminal".
"I never expected in Australia, being a country with such a strong legal system, that this kind of thing could happen," Dr Chau testified on Tuesday in the Federal Court in Sydney.
The businessman, philanthropist and political donor was giving evidence through an interpreter in his defamation case against Fairfax and journalist John Garnaut over the October 16, 2015 online article.
His barrister Bruce McClintock said the article conveys four defamatory meanings including that Dr Chau bribed former UN president John Ashe and was part of a plot to bribe him.
He also alleged it suggested that Dr Chau acted in so seriously wrong a manner as to deserve extradition to the United States on criminal charges and that he created his Australian business empire by making illicit payments to government officials.
The article was published after US prosecutors accused businesswoman Sheri Yan and her finance chief Heidi Park of arranging a bribe to be paid to Mr Ashe in 2013.
Mr McClintock referred to the "extraordinary haste" in which the Fairfax article was put together after Garnaut appeared to feel he had been "gazumped" by a Daily Telegraph story published on October 15.
But James Hmelnitsky SC, for Fairfax and Garnaut, described the article as good journalism.
"We make no bones about the fact that this is a hard-hitting article directed to Mr Chau and would be understood to damage his reputation because it contains a serious allegation that he is a suspect in a bribery scandal," he said.
But he denied it insinuated "actual guilt", saying it suggested he was "suspected" of being involved in the scandal.
They were not running the defence of truth, but were submitting that the publication was reasonable in the circumstances, Mr Hmelnitsky said.
Dr Chau testified he was born in poverty in 1949 in China, became an Australian citizen about 20 years ago and lives in a Vaucluse property in Sydney which he bought from Jamie Packer in 2016.
His company Kingold employed about 10,000 people and he had donated millions of dollars to institutions including Sydney's University of Technology, which had named its business school building after him.
When the Fairfax article was first translated to him he became "very upset", believing it made him out to be a criminal while he had never done anything illegal in China or Australia.
"This was a big strike, a big hit on me and it caused big harm to me," he said.
He had to see doctors because of irregular heart beats and he was concerned that if the reputation damage continues "I may be subject to a heart attack".
Under cross-examination, he denied being more familiar with Garnault than he had admitted in his evidence saying "I could not communicate directly with him because he spoke English and I spoke Mandarin".
The hearing continues before Justice Michael Wigney.