Wealthy spiritual healer Serge Benhayon used defamation proceedings to "inflict pain" on a bankrupt ex-client who wrote blog and social media posts critical of him, a Sydney court has heard.
Mr Benhayon, a former tennis coach who claimed to be the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci, ultimately suffered a significant defeat in October when a jury found many of Esther Mary Rockett's posts were true.
The "substantially true" findings included that he's the leader of a socially harmful cult, preys on cancer patients, engages is bizarre sexual manipulation to make money and "is a charlatan who makes fraudulent medical claims".
In the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday, Ms Rockett's barrister, Tom Molomby SC, argued Mr Benhayon, the founder of "esoteric healing" corporation Universal Medicine, should be ordered to pay costs on an indemnity basis - a higher rate than usually applies in legal disputes.
He said Mr Benhayon had knocked back a reasonable settlement offer by Ms Rockett and the defamation case was "the summit" of his organisation's threatening and intimidating behaviour towards critics.
An affidavit by Ms Rockett recalling interactions with Mr Benhayon's solicitor showed "a picture of oppression, and in part obstruction, and the use of proceedings to inflict pain", Mr Molomby said.
He said Mr Benhayon had sought a grovelling and humiliating apology from Ms Rockett if they were to settle the case before trial.
Justice Julia Lonergan responded that she wouldn't call it an apology but "a declaration of criminal conduct on the part of Ms Rockett".
Mr Benhayon's barrister, Nicholas Olson, said Ms Rockett's affidavit showed "there was a very acrimonious relationship between the parties coming mainly from one side".
But he said it didn't establish "that that conduct has hindered the resolution of these proceedings in any material way".
Mr Olson, who was arguing for costs to be paid on an ordinary basis, said that while Ms Rockett's 2016 settlement offer was reasonable, Mr Benhayon wasn't unreasonable to reject it.
The judge has reserved her costs decision.