Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes has agreed to pay the legal costs of Ben Roberts-Smith’s opponents in his multimillion-dollar failed defamation trial. The move stops the Federal Court from gaining access to thousands of documents and personal emails showing the level of involvement of Mr Roberts-Smith’s financial supporters in the trial. A surprise hearing was held in the Federal Court on Monday where Justice Anthony Besanko ordered Mr Stokes’ private company Australian Capital Equity to pay Nine Newspaper’s costs of the proceedings on an indemnity basis. It’s been estimated the total legal bills for the marathon defamation case exceed $25 million. In July, Justice Besanko ruled some of the imputations against Mr Roberts-Smith put forward across six articles by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times were substantially true. He dismissed Mr Robert-Smith’s lawsuit after finding the newspapers had proven on the balance of probabilities the Victoria Cross recipient had been complicit in war crimes while serving in Afghanistan. Mr Roberts-Smith has launched an appeal against the judgment, which will be heard in February. Once the proceedings were dismissed, Nine Newspapers sought a third-party order asking for costs from Mr Roberts-Smith’s financial backers, Seven Network, its owner billionaire media mogul Kerry Stokes and his private company Australian Capital Equity (ACE). Mr Stokes and Seven initially funded the lawsuit before a loan agreement was reached with ACE, which would be paid 15 per cent interest if Mr Roberts-Smith was successful. As part of the application, Nine had issued subpoenas which sought to show how Seven and ACE controlled the litigation. Justice Besanko granted access to the documents, with an appeal filed by the Seven parties in front of a full court and later dismissed. Mr Stokes and his companies had resisted the third-party costs application, but changed his tune after failing to meet the deadline on Friday to produce the thousands of documents showing communications during the trial. The communications included file notes, written correspondence, text messages and messages on encrypted services such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram. The matter will return to court on Tuesday. Mr Roberts-Smith is appealing Justice Besanko’s findings, with the Full Court to hear the appeal in February for two weeks.