Roman Abramovich Settles Defamation Claim Regarding Putin’s Biography | Romain Abramovich
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich settled his libel claim against journalist Catherine Belton over her bestselling book Putin’s People after a deal was reached on Tuesday evening.
The text will now recognize that the allegation that Abramovich bought Chelsea football club at the request of the Russian president is not a statement of fact. It will include additional denials from the oligarch’s and club spokesperson.
It will also correct a claim that the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky was a joint owner of Russian oil company Sibneft with Abramovich. The amendment follows a legal battle between the two men in 2011-2012, won by Abramovich. The book’s publisher, HarperCollins, agreed to make a payment to charity “in recognition of this mistake,” he said.
Abramovich has pursued a number of claims, including that he bought Chelsea on orders from Vladimir Putin. He was one of three Russian tycoons to file libel lawsuits against Belton and HarperCollins, along with the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft.
The other defendants subsequently settled or withdrawn their claims. Abramovich shut down his case after HarperCollins said on Wednesday that some information about the oligarch was inaccurate. He agreed to do revisions to the book, widely acclaimed as the definitive work on the Putin era.
HarperCollins hailed the overnight settlement as a fair deal. No compensation is paid to Abramovich himself. Both parties will pay their own costs. If the libel suit had taken place in the High Court next year, the legal bill would likely have exceeded Â£ 10million, it is understood.
The publisher said: “While the book has always denied that Mr. Abramovich was acting under anyone’s direction when he bought Chelsea, the new edition will include a more detailed explanation of Mr. Abramovich’s motivations for buying the club.
HarperCollins also clarified in the book that there is no evidence, beyond the statements of the individuals themselves, to support the claims made to the author by [the former Kremlin insider] Sergei Pugachev and two other anonymous people on the purchase of Chelsea Football Club.
HarperCollins acknowledged that a High Court judge described Berezovsky as an “inherently unreliable witness”. He added: “HarperCollins and the author apologize that these aspects of the book were not as clear as they would have liked and are happy to have now clarified the text.”
Chelsea FC have said they are happy that HarperCollins and Belton have “apologized to Mr Abramovich” and agreed to edit the book. Several false claims about him were suppressed, he added, adding that they “lacked evidence and were indeed false.”
The club said the publisher had agreed to add or delete “more than 1,700 words”. The only reason the oligarch issued his request was to “refute false allegations” published about him, including his purchase of Chelsea and its activities.
The press release continued: âAs the objectives of this legal action were never punitive, we did not ask for any compensation. We did, however, ask HarperCollins to make a donation in lieu of damages to a charity, which they agreed to â.
Despite the revisions, the deal is broadly seen as a victory for Belton, who has been the subject of unprecedented legal assault from billionaires with ties to the Kremlin. Abramovich served for eight years as governor of Chukotka, a region in Russia’s Far East. He has always denied being under the control of the Russian government.
In a report, she said that “this past year has looked like a war of attrition” in which she was “bombarded with lawsuits” by four Russian billionaires and Rosneft.
Belton added: “Although the claimants denied it was coordinated, it struck me as similar to the Kremlin’s multi-pronged campaign against Ukraine in which it sought to exhaust the West from making security concessions. on NATO expansion. “
She continued, âThroughout, HarperCollins has been a staunch defender of the book. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more courageous publisher, more committed to public service journalism.
Campaigners have described the case against Belton as an abuse of the UK defamation system. Abramovich has personally sued the former Financial Times reporter as well as her editor.
The settlement was made following an approach from Abramovich, it is understood. HarperCollins said Belton has always been willing to include the oligarch’s comments on the allegations, and acknowledged that books on controversial contemporary themes need to be updated as new information emerges.
At a preliminary hearing in November, Justice Tipples ruled that several passages in the book that Abramovich said conveyed false statements about him were defamatory of him.
One of these claims was the suggestion that Abramovich was “under Putin’s control” and that the oligarch was obligated “to place the fortunes of his business empire at the disposal of President Putin and his regime,” wrote Tipples, in a 34- page ruling. But she ruled that three of the four sections denounced by Rosneft were not defamatory, with the oil company subsequently filing its case.
Tipples stressed that the court was only ruling on meaning at this point. It was not about deciding whether the allegations made about Abramovich or someone else were true or false. After Wednesday’s settlement, claims will not be tested in court.
At the initial hearing, Abramovich’s attorney said the book repeated “lazy inaccuracies about Abramovich’s role in various events” and made false and damaging statements about him that were “completely unfounded” .
Belton spent seven years writing Putin’s People and was based in Moscow as the FT’s bureau chief. Last month she was named the Exceptional investigative journalist 2021 in awards named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in prison.