Lawyer tells jury not to believe 'conman from Goonellabah'
By Sam McKeith
UNIVERSAL Medicine founder Serge Benhayon has been labelled the "conman from Goonellabah" at a NSW Supreme Court defamation hearing.
On the second day of closing argument at the four-person jury trial, defence barrister Tom Molomby, QC, suggested that the spiritual healer had "lied his head off" in the witness box earlier at the trial.
Mr Molomby argued Mr Benhayon, whom he referred to as the "mouthpiece of ageless wisdom", had been trying to make himself look good when claiming he had represented the state in athletics, soccer, cricket and rugby.
"He agreed that it was nothing like representing the state ... he just lied his head off," Mr Molomby said.
He also told the jury it was not Pythagoras or Leonardo da Vinci who had been in the witness box in the form of Mr Benhayon.
"It was Serge Benhayon, conman from Goonellabah, that's who it was," he said.
"You can't believe a word he says."
Mr Molomby also took issue with Mr Benhayon's claims that he had not done "ovarian readings" until 2009 or 2010, telling the jury that in audio recordings the North Coast healer said he had done them "back in 1999".
Esther Rockett, the blogger Mr Benhayon is suing for defamation, has previously claimed that the spiritual healer performed a "sleazy ovarian reading" on her in 2005.
"There goes the whole of his explanation. His explanation was a lie," Mr Molomby said.
In Wednesday's closing, Mr Molomby also told the jury that there was no "official definition" of the word "cult", but that Universal Medicine operated under the "sole control" of Mr Benhayon.
Mr Benhayon was the "source" and "arbiter" of teachings and claimed to be a reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci and Pythagoras, he said.
"That would not subtract from the authority he has," Mr Molomby quipped at one point.
He also pointed to Mr Benhayon and his family "living off" Universal Medicine.
The court heard that Mr Benhayon and his wife had a combined income of $350,000 for 2016 and that $5.5 million of real estate was linked to the group, including a $1.75 million property in Brisbane and a $2.3 million hall that had cost $1.2 million to renovate.
"On the deck of the good ship Benhayon, the money is sloshing around ankle deep," Mr Molomby said.
"They seem to be taking steps to make it an inheritable family enterprise."
Mr Benhayon, 54, claims Ms Rockett, an acupuncturist and one-time Universal Medicine client, defamed him on a blog and in tweets that allegedly paint him as a cult leader and sexual predator.
Ms Rockett is defending the claims at the trial, now in its fourth week, on the basis of truth and honest opinion.
The plaintiff's closing argument is expected to start on Thursday.
The trial continues before Justice Julia Lonergan.