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Australian ‘war crimes’: Kerry Stokes backs accused SAS soldiers

Media mogul Kerry Stokes has been publicly and privately supporting members of Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment and their families for decades.

Accusations members of the regiment committed war crimes in Afghanistan – including the murder of prisoners – have only strengthened that commitment. 

The Western Australian billionaire’s association with the Perth-based special forces unit goes back at least as far as his days playing social rugby with SAS soldiers in the 1970s.

This week it was confirmed he is funding a defamation case brought by retired SAS corporal Ben Roberts-Smith against Nine Entertainment newspapers over reports on his wartime service.

Media mogul Kerry Stokes publicly and privately supported members of Australia’s Special Air Service and their families for decades. Accusations members of the regiment committed war crimes in Afghanistan have only strengthened that commitment. (Stock image). It is not suggested any of the persons shown are in any way involved in any war crimes

Billionaire Kerry Stokes is funding a defamation case brought by retired SAS corporal Ben Roberts-Smith (pictured) against Nine Entertainment newspapers over reports on his wartime service

Billionaire Kerry Stokes is funding a defamation case brought by retired SAS corporal Ben Roberts-Smith (pictured) against Nine Entertainment newspapers over reports on his wartime service

Mr Roberts-Smith has provided his VC and other medals as security for a loan provided by Mr Stokes, who will donate them to the Australian War Memorial if he defaults. Mr Stokes is pictured with the VC of WWI soldier Alfred Shout, which he bought and donated to the AWM

Mr Roberts-Smith has provided his VC and other medals as security for a loan provided by Mr Stokes, who will donate them to the Australian War Memorial if he defaults. Mr Stokes is pictured with the VC of WWI soldier Alfred Shout, which he bought and donated to the AWM 

Mr Roberts-Smith is general manager of Channel Seven in Queensland, which is part of Seven West Media, owned by Mr Stokes.

Mr Stokes’ private investment company Australian Capital Equity has reportedly extended a $1.9million line of credit to Mr Roberts-Smith.

The former soldier has provided his Victoria Cross and other battlefield decorations including a Medal for Gallantry as security for the loan.

In the event Mr Roberts-Smith cannot repay the money Mr Stokes will donate the medal set to the Australian War Memorial, of which he is chairman. 

‘The funding of his legal action is a private matter, however he has put his medals up as collateral on a loan and will relinquish them if required,’ Mr Stokes has said.

‘If this eventuates, I will donate his medals with Ben’s approval to the Australian War Memorial, as I have done so with other VCs and medals in the past.’

An report by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence released on Thursday found evidence of 39 unlawful killings by special forces soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly by the SAS. (Stock image). It is not suggested any of the persons shown are in any way involved in any war crimes

An report by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence released on Thursday found evidence of 39 unlawful killings by special forces soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly by the SAS. (Stock image). It is not suggested any of the persons shown are in any way involved in any war crimes

Justice Paul Brereton recommended 36 matters involving 23 incidents and 19 individuals be referred to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation. (Stock image). It is not suggested any of the persons shown are in any way involved in any war crimes

Justice Paul Brereton recommended 36 matters involving 23 incidents and 19 individuals be referred to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation. (Stock image). It is not suggested any of the persons shown are in any way involved in any war crimes

An report by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence released on Thursday found evidence of 39 unlawful killings by special forces soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly by the SAS.

Key findings on special forces in Afghanistan 

Special forces were responsible for 39 unlawful killings, most were prisoners, and were deliberately covered up.

Thirty-nine Afghans were unlawfully killed in 23 incidents, either by special forces or at the instruction of special forces.

None of the killings took place in the heat of battle.

All the killings occurred in circumstances which, if accepted by a jury, would constitute the war crime of murder.

There have been 25 alleged perpetrators identified either as principals or accessories. Some are still serving in the ADF.

Justice Paul Brereton recommended 36 matters involving 23 incidents and 19 individuals be referred to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation.

Mr Stokes was a co-founder of the SAS Resources Fund, set up after the 1996 Black Hawk helicopter collision near Townsville in which 15 SASR members were killed.

The fund provides assistance to serving and former members of the regiment and their dependants in times of financial hardship.

A spokesman for Mr Stokes told the Australian Financial the fund might be used to support those SAS soldiers facing potential prosecution for their actions in Afghanistan.

That assistance could include help with legal costs and other ongoing expenses such as for mental health treatment.

‘He supports all SAS soldiers, not just Ben,’ spokesman Tim Allerton told the AFR. ‘It’s the whole SAS community.’

It has previously been revealed Mr Stokes provided instant $50,000 payments to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, where 27,000 Australian personnel served between 2001 and 2014. 

Mr Stokes has also bought and donated to the War Memorial at least seven VCs awarded to Australians, beginning with that of Vietnam hero Kevin ‘Dasher’ Wheatley.

Ben Roberts-Smith will give his Victoria Cross and other medals (pictured) to Mr Stokes if he cannot repay a loan. Mr Stokes has spent millions of dollars buying and donating VCs to the Australian War Memorial, of which he is chairman

Ben Roberts-Smith will give his Victoria Cross and other medals (pictured) to Mr Stokes if he cannot repay a loan. Mr Stokes has spent millions of dollars buying and donating VCs to the Australian War Memorial, of which he is chairman

Kevin 'Dasher' Wheatley (pictured) was killed in action in 1965, leaving his widow Edna to raise four young children in Housing Commission accommodation. Mr Stokes learnt Mrs Wheatley was being forced to sell her late husband's VC in 1993 and stepped in

Kevin ‘Dasher’ Wheatley (pictured) was killed in action in 1965, leaving his widow Edna to raise four young children in Housing Commission accommodation. Mr Stokes learnt Mrs Wheatley was being forced to sell her late husband’s VC in 1993 and stepped in

Warrant Officer Wheatley was killed in action in 1965, leaving his widow Edna to raise four young children in Housing Commission accommodation.

Mr Stokes, who was given up for adoption by a mother he never met, learnt Mrs Wheatley was being forced to sell her late husband’s VC in 1993 and stepped in. 

The noted philanthropist topped up a $60,000 appeal fund raised by the RSL with $100,000 to secure Wheatley’s medals.

‘The public recognition was overwhelming,’ he has said of buying the buying the Wheatley VC. ‘But the real story is about the widow.’ 

Since then he has spent millions buying at least six more VCs, paying varying prices but saying all of them were of equal value. 

'I'm lucky enough to be able to do what most Australians would do if they could,' Mr Stokes told biographer Andrew Rule in 2014 of buying up and donating VCs. He is pictured at the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Day 2018

‘I’m lucky enough to be able to do what most Australians would do if they could,’ Mr Stokes told biographer Andrew Rule in 2014 of buying up and donating VCs. He is pictured at the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Day 2018

‘I’m lucky enough to be able to do what most Australians would do if they could,’ Mr Stokes told biographer Andrew Rule in 2014.

Mr Stokes paid a world record $1.2million for the VC medal set of Captain Alfred John Shout, who was killed at Gallipoli, in 2006.

The same year he spent $478,000 for the VC set of World War I recipient Lance Corporal Bernard Gordon.

Two years later in conjunction with the South Australian Government, he purchased the Major Peter Badcoe’s VC, awarded for his actions in Vietnam, for$480,000.

Also that year Mr Stokes paid $525,000 for Private Harry Dalziel’s World War I Victoria Cross and five of his other service medals.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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