ICWA sues Bell liquidator

Neale Prior
ICWA sues Bell liquidator.

The battle over the $1.7 billion in Bell Group litigation loot has intensified with the Insurance Commission of WA suing the liquidator it bankrolled for almost two decades.

ICWA has asked the Supreme Court to force liquidator Tony Woodings to put it onto a committee overseeing hundreds of millions of dollars expected to flow through Bell debt raising arm Bell Group Finance (BGF).

Despite having spent around $200 million as the major funder of an 18-year legal campaign against former Bell bankers, ICWA was not voted on to the committee at a meeting of BGF creditors last month.

This came at the urging of veteran Perth accountant Garry Trevor, who is liquidator of Bell Group's collapsed Netherland Antilles offshoot Bell Group NV.

Bell Group NV, which was an early funder of the litigation before pulling, is fighting to get a major cut of the litigation proceeds on the strength of the original funding agreement.

The banks and Mr Woodings struck a settlement deal last year on the eve of High Court hearing. The settlement has triggered attacks on ICWA's claim to be entitled to the lion's share of proceeds.

Bell Group NV is ultimately backed by a group of investors linked to Dutch speculator Louis Reijtenbagh, who is mounting a class action in London to stop ICWA getting hold any winnings.

ICWA is only indirectly a creditor of BGF as the holder of $75 million in junk bonds issued by the company and bought from Robert Holmes a Court as part of WA Inc dealings after the October 1987 sharemarket crash.

ICWA also holds $75 million in junk bonds issued by Bell Group, but is also a direct creditor and had had no problems getting onto that company's creditor committee.

Mr Woodings said the legal action by ICWA did not indicate a falling out with the funder. "Reasonable men can agree to disagree about things," he said.

ICWA said in a statement it would continue to pursue its legal rights. "Where these rights are challenged by others, that action unfortunately reduces the chances of a negotiated solution," it said.