Four Russian billionaires and the nation’s state-owned power big have filed lawsuits in opposition to HarperCollins over a e-book it printed final 12 months concerning the rise of Vladimir Putin.
The authorized assault on the e-book, Putin’s People, has are available a flurry of instances introduced within the London courts, all inside a couple of weeks of one another, together with by Mikhail Fridman, the banking, retail and telecoms tycoon, and Roman Abramovich, the proprietor of Chelsea soccer membership.
The libel and knowledge safety lawsuits identify HarperCollins’ UK arm together with the e-book’s writer, Catherine Belton, a former Financial Times journalist. Putin’s People, launched in April 2020, particulars the Russian president’s ascent to energy and his relationship with rich oligarchs.
The litigation highlights the high-stakes nature of writing about highly effective oligarchs and the position of London-based attorneys in defending the pursuits of the worldwide elite. The legislation corporations appearing for the claimants are Carter-Ruck, CMS, Harbottle & Lewis, and Taylor Wessing.
HarperCollins described Belton’s e-book as an “authoritative, important and conscientiously sourced work”. “We will robustly defend this acclaimed and groundbreaking book and the right to report on matters of considerable public interest,” the writer added. Belton had no separate remark.
Abramovich, who filed the primary swimsuit, in March stated that his “action was not taken lightly” and that the e-book had contained “false and defamatory” statements about him. Court paperwork confirmed Abramovich’s libel swimsuit disputes a declare that Putin ordered his 2003 acquisition of Chelsea in addition to different allegations. A spokesperson for Abramovich had no additional remark.
The e-book sources the declare to exiled Russian billionaire Sergei Pugachev, who was as soon as a member of Putin’s interior circle earlier than falling out, fleeing the nation, and changing into a dissident. In a case in 2017, a High Court decide described Pugachev as an unreliable witness.
The different claimants, whose actions haven’t been beforehand reported, are Fridman, his longtime enterprise accomplice Peter Aven, Russian actual property tycoon Shalva Chigirinsky, and Rosneft, the Kremlin-controlled oil producer. Aven has introduced his declare below knowledge safety legislation. Court paperwork for these instances are usually not but out there.
The lawsuits got here in fast succession in March and April, across the one-year deadline in UK legislation for libel actions.
“We can confirm that neither Mr Aven nor Mr Fridman had any prior knowledge of the other lawsuits you have referred to,” a spokesperson for Fridman stated in a press release. “They have had no contact with, and did not co-ordinate a legal strategy with, the other plaintiffs or their lawyers.
“Mr Aven’s and Mr Fridman’s cases were filed within the applicable limitation periods and only after the defendants (HarperCollins) had refused to discuss a range of remedial actions suggested by lawyers acting for Mr Aven and Mr Fridman,” the spokesperson added.
Rosneft didn’t reply to a request for remark. Chigirinsky couldn’t instantly be reached for remark by means of his attorneys.
Jessica Ní Mhainín on the Index on Censorship, a bunch that campaigns without spending a dime expression, stated London’s courts have been changing into the venue of selection for authorized motion designed to “quash critical journalism, not only in the UK, but around the world”.
She added that the UK is harbouring a world trade that income from such lawsuits in opposition to journalists, and known as for the introduction of reforms.