Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Smuggle Drugs Into Bali, Get Busted, Become Media Sensation, Sell Your Story For $350,000 And Counting

If Schapelle Corby had actually managed to sell the 4kg of cannabis she was busted trying to smuggle into Bali in late 2004, she may have earned around $40,000.

Now serving 20 years in a Bali jail, Schapelle Corby's incredible legal adventure has spawned autobiography and media rights sales to her story worth more than $350,000. And that's before the movie rights to her life story are sold, and long before she makes another half million, or more, for the inevitable Schapelle Corby : Free At Last memoir, due sometime after 2024.

The autobigraphy, My Story, written by a journalist, Kathryn Bonella, from extensive interviews she conducted with Schappelle inside Bali's Kerobokan Prison, has been the Australian publishing phenomenon of the year.

The 'memoir' has sold more than 100,000 copies, and recently two Australian current affairs shows engaged in a week long war over unproven allegations that Schapelle's sister, Mercedes, and even her own mother, Rosalie, were dope smokers and drug dealers/smugglers.

It's the story that refuses to die, or so the Australian tabloid media hope.

But behind the incredible success of Schapelle's book is a remarkably seedy story of how an Australian publishing company tried to get around laws that prohibits a convicted criminal from profiting from their crimes, by writing books or giving paid interviews or selling their life rights to a movie producer.

Publisher Pan MacMillan has been exposed, through confidential court documents filed in Queensland, as having forked over some $350,000 to members of the Corby family for the rights to Schapelle's story.

But they weren't the only media to drive truckloads of money up to the front door of the Corby's Brisbane home.

The Australian Women's Weekly paid $110,000 to run an extract from My Story.

News Limited handed over $2000 for the rights to run an exclusive photo and book extract.

New Idea Magazine paid Mercedes Corby and journalist Kathryn Bonella some $15,000 to write an exclusive story.

As this story explains, the trial and jailing of Schapelle Corby sparked, literally, a media feeding frenzy, and there's still plenty of blood in the water :

The publishing contract shows that Schapelle's sister, Mercedes Corby, is entitled to 85 per cent of the $350,000 publisher's advance and any future royalties earned from the book...

The documents reveal the protracted and complex negotiations among the Corby sisters, Bonella and Pan Macmillan.

An email from Bonella to publisher Tom Gilliatt reveals that the writer had concerns about losing the money to the Australian Government through the proceeds of crime laws long before the Court of Appeal froze the book's profits.

In the correspondence last October, Gilliatt reassures Bonella she would face no problems.

"My understanding is that you're at no risk since the act is to stop those convicted of a crime profiting from it (and even that's arguable in court)," he says.

Gilliatt indicates it would be best for Mercedes Corby to send an invoice to the publisher so she can be "paid before the book becomes public knowledge".

Bonella also reveals to the publishers she is using an alias while staying in Indonesia and that documents should be addressed to "Lisa".

The Australian Federal Police seized the emails and tracked the movements of Bonella and a number of Pan Macmillan employees through the Immigration Department.

The AFP argues that the amounts should be refunded under the act. However, there are questions concerning how much money is left in Widyartha's Indonesian account.

The publisher wired $76,500 to Widyartha's account at the Bank Negara Indonesia 15 months ago and the balance of $191,250 arrived two months before the court order.

The Corbys have argued the money will be used to fund on-going legal action.

Mercedes Corby, meanwhile, is now suing the 'current affairs' program Today Tonight for defamation in the NSW Supreme Court, after the show aired an interview with a former friend of Mercedes, Jodi Powers, who claimed the Corby family were no strangers to cannabis before Schapelle was busted in Bali.

Jodi Powers was paid more than $75,000 for the interview and was given a lie detector test in a ridiculously staged attempt to add credibility to her questionable claims. Powers failed the first set of lie detector tests.

Mercedes Corby became aware three months before the story aired that Jodi Powers was going to make such allegations and repeatedly tried to contact the producers of the show so she could respond on air.

Today Tonight ignored her phone calls and then waited until she left the country so they could claim they tried to contact Mercedes for an interview but got no response.

If Mercedes Corby's defamation suit is successful, she could be awarded damages of more than $500,000.

Schapelle Corby is the tabloid sensation that simply will not die.