Chief Justice Wayne Martin. Picture: Matt Jelonek/The West Australian.
Chief Justice Wayne Martin. Picture: Matt Jelonek/The West Australian.

The next stage of the Bell Group lawyers' picnic kicked off in the WA Supreme Court yesterday, with a hunt for a judge who does not have a conflict of interest.

Chief Justice Wayne Martin, who is unable to be involved in the case, was trying to find a judge to run a potentially messy row over $1.7 billion in proceeds from an 18-year legal campaign.

Supreme Court master Craig Sanderson was given the job of hammering out procedural issues, with four legal teams already involved in a case over whether litigation funders should get 66 per cent of the winnings.

Master Sanderson said it would be hard to imagine judges "beating a path" to Justice Martin's door. He expected the chief justice to find a candidate and use his "undoubted charms to persuade the judge".

If a deal is not struck over an asset carve-up, the case could become a sprawling fight involving groups including a syndicate linked to Monaco businessman Danny Hill and funding creditors Insurance Commission of WA and Bell Group NV.

There is already a row over whether proceedings related to the distributions by Bell Group and related company Bell Group Finance should be one case or two. The companies went into liquidation at different times.

State Solicitor Paul Evans, representing ICWA, said the issue was the "shiny point at the tip of the iceberg". "Some poor judge will have to deal with the iceberg," Mr Evans said.

Bell Group liquidator Tony Woodings asked for all companies to be dealt with in one case while Bell Group NV lawyers argued they should be separated. The case is expected back in court next week.

The West Australian

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