A Melbourne polo baron has been cleared of defamation after an extraordinary email war in which he accused a friend of Prince William’s of taking ‘hallucinatory substances’.
Peter Yunghanns, 80, a famous polo benefactor owns around a thousand horses on his Yaloak estate in Victoria, and has been part of Melbourne’s society since he was in his thirties.
But he locked horns with the president of the Federation of International Polo (FIP) Nicholas J.A. Colquhoun-Denvers Esq, 70, in a four year war of words.
Peter Yunghanns (pictured), 80, took aim at Mr Colquhoun-Denvers, saying he ‘may have been taking some form of hallucinatory substance, either nasally intravenously or by ingestion.’
Mr Colquhoun-Denvers spent years running Ham Polo Club and is reportedly close with Princes William and Harry, who are both patrons.
Mr Yunghanns launched a defamation claim against Mr Colquhoun-Denvers who in turn launched a counter claim.
But in the Supreme Court last month, their long-running dispute ended with Justice Terry Forrest throwing out both cases, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The row started in 2011 Mr Yunghanns went to Tianjin in northeastern China where he met with Pan Sutong, a Chinese billionaire and chair of Goldin Group.
Mr Pan is known to rub shoulders with Prince William and Prince Harry – who have played in polo events sponsored by his company.
The meeting between the two high-powered men ended with Goldin – in conjunction with the Tianjin Metropolitan Polo Club – putting around $US2 million (AUD2.8 million) into creating a snow polo tournament.
The development then lead to talks between Goldin and the Federation of International Polo – represented by Mr Yunghanns and other officials – that Tianjin could host the Snow Polo World Cup for the next three years.
The former president of the Federation of International Polo Nicholas J.A. Colquhoun-Denvers Esq (pictured) locked horns with Peter Yunghanns, 80, a famous polo benefactor
According to Mr Yunghanns, $600,000 of the fees the Federation were entitled to in the deal were to go to a polo development fund.
It was found in court that while Goldin may have intended to hand over the money, this didn’t happen while negotiating contracts.
Mr Yunghanns’ view that the money wasn’t going to where it should have been was coupled with his dissatisfaction with FIP under Dr Richard Caleel – who was president from 2012 to 2014.
He wasn’t happy with FIP’s voting systems and bank accounts. This created what he later admitted to being a ‘vendetta’.
Gaj Singh II, the last Maharaja of Jodhpur in India received many of the scathing emails about Mr Colquhoun-Denvers. Pictured with Camilla Parker Bowles
In September 2013, Mr Yunghanns wrote in an email that Dr Caleel ‘lacks vertebrae, his intestinal strength, if it exists, is minimal and he lacks a couple of other appendages with which most males are endowed’.
Mr Yunghanns also took aim at Mr Colquhoun-Denvers, saying he ‘may have been taking some form of hallucinatory substance, either nasally intravenously or by ingestion.’
Mr Yunghanns said Mr Colquhoun-Denvers – who was by that time the president of FIP – had impaired ‘ability to comprehend the English language’.
Ishaq Khakwani – a regional president of Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party – and Gaj Singh II, the last Maharaja of Jodhpur in India received many of the scathing emails about Mr Colquhoun-Denvers.
Mr Yunghanns kept up with his emails, and in December 2013, Mr Colquhoun-Denvers responded.
‘What an astonishingly bitter and insulting attack… It is unworthy of a gentleman or a member of FIP,’ he wrote.
The following year Mr Yunghanns became a persona non grata by FIP.
In November 2015 Mr Colquhoun-Denvers, who was by then FIP president, sent around an email that rubbished Mr Yunghanns’ accusations.
Mr Yunghanns claimed said email was defamatory and went onto sue Mr Colquhoun-Denvers, who then brought his own counter-claim against Mr Yunghanns.
‘Having goaded the FIP leadership group into defaming him, (Mr Yunghanns) set about punishing them with litigation,’ Justice Forrest found.
Mr Pan is known to rub shoulders with Prince William and Prince Harry – who have played in polo events sponsored by his company
He believed Mr Yunghanns suing Mr Colquhoun-Denvers wasn’t fuelled by protecting his reputation.
Justice Forrest said if it had been about protecting himself, Mr Yunghanns wouldn’t have published numerous insulting emails that were under his name.
‘FIP’s administrative processes and governance were redolent of a pre-war gentlemen’s club, and (Mr Yunghann’s) trenchant criticisms of them extended over years,’ Justice Forrest said.
Justice Forrest found that Mr Yunghanns was treated badly when he was sacked by FIP from its two committees in 2013, before partially getting his job back and getting dismissed the next year.
‘He had been a loyal and productive servant to FIP over decades, and he deserved much more than summary dismissal,’ Justice Forrest said.
Justice Forrest found many of the insults that were thrown back and forth were defamatory, but he said some were simply insults that didn’t have the power to tarnish a reputation.
Neither Mr Yunghanns nor Mr Colquhoun-Denvers were awarded any damages.
It hasn’t been decided yet who will pay the legal costs, which is said to be six figures.
In 2011 Mr Yunghanns went to Tianjin in northeastern China where he met with Pan Sutong, a Chinese billionaire and chair of Goldin Group