Posts Tagged ‘joseph cotterill’

October 2013

Magnitsky, the libel courts, and sanctions

Finacial Times

On 16 November 2009 Sergei Magnitsky died in prison in Russia. Shortly before his arrest and imprisonment he had been investigating a substantial tax fraud committed against the Russian Federation by a criminal gang. I shall refer to this tax fraud as the Hermitage Fund fraud.

Beyond this short summary, many of the facts in issue between the parties are unknown or controversial, and are subject to stark divisions of opinion…

So began Mr Justice Simon’s judgment in Pavel Karpov v William Felix Browder & Hermitage Capital Management Limited & others on Monday. And the rest is very much worth reading.

The High Court judge ultimately threw out the libel claim made by Karpov (a Russian ex-cop and Magnitsky List member) against Browder — largely because of “exiguous” grounds to link the case to the UK. Simultaneously, Mr Justice Simon said that there were “inadequate particulars to justify the charge that the claimant was a primary or secondary party to Sergei Magnitsky’s torture and murder”.

The “exiguous” point alone will probably see the case feted as a turning point for ‘libel tourism’, even beyond the Defamation Act which is just coming into force in the UK. Perhaps even for overseas litigants making use of English courts in general. So, here are key bits of the judgment on this stuff:

For these reasons, I am satisfied that the Claimant had no connection with, and had no reputation to protect within, the jurisdiction; and therefore cannot establish a real and substantial tort within the jurisdiction. His reputation exists in Russia and the damage to his reputation (which is presumed as a matter of English law) is in Russia. The contrast with the facts of Berezovsky v. Michaels (see above) is stark…

His connection with this country is exiguous and, although he can point to the continuing publication in this country, there is ‘a degree of artificiality’ about his seeking to protect his reputation in this country. This is an important, but not determinative, consideration on the Defendants’ application to strike out the claim…

But there’s more to it. For one thing, an end to libel tourism or not, the case’s legal bill sounds pretty big: Monday’s ruling refers to the “substantial costs” if Karpov’s claim had reached a full trial.

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