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Drug and prostitute claims as Lehrmann case reopened

Bombshell claims in new affidavits

Source: Network Ten

Former Seven Network producer Taylor Auerbach claims the broadcaster paid for “illicit drugs and prostitutes” as part of its efforts to secure an exclusive, tell-all interview with Bruce Lehrmann.

The allegations are included in three affidavits from Auerbach, released by the Federal Court on Wednesday after they were tendered during Network Ten’s successful application to reopen its case in Lehrmann’s defamation claim.

Auerbach was a producer on Seven’s Spotlight program, which aired two interviews with Lehrmann in 2023.

Lehrmann is suing Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over its February, 2021 interview on The Project with Brittany Higgins, during which she alleged she had been raped at Parliament House, even though she did not name Lehrmann.

Lehrmann, a former Liberal staffer, faced a criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court, which was abandoned after juror misconduct.

He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Auerbach’s affidavit details multiple payments in late 2022 and early 2023 as Seven attempted to secure an exclusive interview with Lehrmann.

Lehrmann

Auerbach is expected to face cross examination on Thursday. Photo: ABC News

He said that over two days in January 2023, money Lehrmann allegedly paid for illicit drugs and to engage sex workers was reimbursed to him “by Seven through ‘per diems’ … in the days after [Lehrmann’s] departure from Sydney in early January”.

“I no longer have a copy of this invoice,” Auerbach said in his affidavit.

In November 2022, while Lehrmann was still facing one count of sexual assault in the ACT Supreme Court, Auerbach claims Lehrmann received massages worth more than $10,000.

Lehrmann has denied receiving a massage at the time, and has described the claims as “untrue and rather bizarre”.

Auerbach has threatened to sue Lehrmann for defamation over that statement.

Thursday hearing

The claims in Auberbach’s affidavits are untested, and he is expected to face cross-examination Thursday when he testifies in Lehrmann’s revived defamation case.

Network Ten on Tuesday succeeded in an application to reopen its case in order to present the fresh evidence to the court.

In his affidavits, Auerbach claimed Lehrmann leaked private and confidential texts from Higgins, sending them to Seven ahead of the Spotlight interview.

On Tuesday night, the court heard the texts were provided to Seven in breach of the so-called Harman undertaking, which sought to ensure evidence from the abandoned criminal case against him was not used for other purposes.

Lehrmann previously denied in court providing any material to Seven other than his recorded interview.

Auerbach said in his affidavits he was employed by Seven as a senior producer on Spotlight for two years until August 2023, after which he “made claim against Seven for psychological injury … which I settled on confidential terms”.

Auerbach was hired as investigations producer at Sky News, but says he fired from that role in March due to media reports about an alleged $1000 payment by Seven to Lehrmann for a Thai massage.

Brothel visit and drugs

Auerbach claims in one of his affidavits that Seven paid for a taxi for Lehrmann from Franca restaurant in Potts Point to the Meriton Sydney hotel for an “after-dinner meeting” on January 5 last year.

He said that money Lehrmann paid “for illicit drugs and prostitutes that evening at the Meriton and the following evening at a brothel in Surry Hills were reimbursed … by Seven”.

He alleges this was paid “through ‘per diems’ via invoice emailed to … [Spotlight’s] unit manager” after Lehrmann left Sydney in early January.

Auerbach also claims that receipts for Sensai Thai Massage, which he booked for Lehrmann in November 2022, totalled “approximately $10,315”.

Text messages attached to Auerbach’s affidavit suggest he subsequently texted an unknown person connected to the massage transactions and said: “Can you refund credit card and I give you cash”.

Late last year, during Lehrmann’s defamation case, the Federal Court heard that Seven covered a year’s worth of his accommodation, totalling more than $100,000.

Auerbach claims that prior to that accommodation, a property in Randwick was also rented in his name for Lehrmann to live in for three weeks in March 2023 at a cost of almost $12,000.

Other payments Auerbach details include meals at several Sydney restaurants, including $361 for a 1.9-kilogram tomahawk steak at Chophouse, as well as a trip to Tasmania’s prestigious Barnbougle golf complex.

Auerbach says these payments were made either by Seven, or him personally. He does not specify who paid for what.

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

– with AAP

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