4 Russian billionaires and the nation’s state-owned power big have filed lawsuits in opposition to HarperCollins over a guide it printed final 12 months concerning the rise of Vladimir Putin.
The authorized assault on the guide, Putin’s Individuals, has are available a flurry of circumstances introduced within the London courts, all inside a number 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 title HarperCollins’ UK arm together with the guide’s creator, Catherine Belton, a former Monetary Occasions journalist. Putin’s Individuals, 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 companies performing for the claimants are Carter-Ruck, CMS, Harbottle & Lewis, and Taylor Wessing.
HarperCollins described Belton’s guide as an “authoritative, vital and carefully sourced work”. “We’ll robustly defend this acclaimed and groundbreaking guide and the proper to report on issues of appreciable public curiosity,” the writer added. Belton had no separate remark.
Abramovich, who filed the primary go well with, in March mentioned that his “motion was not taken calmly” and that the guide had contained “false and defamatory” statements about him. Courtroom paperwork confirmed Abramovich’s libel go well with 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 guide sources the declare to exiled Russian billionaire Sergei Pugachev, who was as soon as a member of Putin’s internal circle earlier than falling out, fleeing the nation, and changing into a dissident. In a case in 2017, a Excessive Courtroom decide described Pugachev as an unreliable witness.
The opposite 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 underneath knowledge safety legislation. Courtroom paperwork for these circumstances usually are not but accessible.
The lawsuits got here in fast succession in March and April, across the one-year deadline in UK legislation for libel actions.
“We will affirm that neither Mr Aven nor Mr Fridman had any prior information of the opposite lawsuits you’ve gotten referred to,” a spokesperson for Fridman mentioned in an announcement. “They’ve had no contact with, and didn’t co-ordinate a authorized technique with, the opposite plaintiffs or their attorneys.
“Mr Aven’s and Mr Fridman’s circumstances have been filed throughout the relevant limitation durations and solely after the defendants (HarperCollins) had refused to debate a variety of remedial actions advised by attorneys performing 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 gaggle that campaigns totally free expression, mentioned London’s courts have been changing into the venue of alternative for authorized motion designed to “quash crucial journalism, not solely within the UK, however all over the world”.
She added that the UK is harbouring a world trade that income from such lawsuits in opposition to journalists, and referred to as for the introduction of reforms.