ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES:
Three Russian billionaires are hitting back after they say they were defamed by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS. The Russians’ lawsuit says the dossier’s assertions “falsely accuse” the three and Alfa “of criminal conduct and alleged cooperation with the ‘Kremlin’ to influence the 2016 presidential election.” It says Fusion recklessly spread the charges to journalists.
FUSION GPS FEELS THE KARMA:
Fusion GPS, the producer of the infamous fake Trump dossier, is fending off in court three of Russia’s richest oligarchs by painting them as corrupt bankers in bed with President Vladimir Putin.
The three primary investors in Moscow’s Alfa Bank — Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan — filed a libel lawsuit against Fusion in October. Fusion’s dossier, written by former British spy Christopher Steele, says two of them engineered cash bribes to Mr. Putin. The dossier also implies that the bank colluded with Mr. Putin to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by hacking Democratic Party computers.
The lawsuit describes the three billionaires as international businessmen who became “collateral damage” in Fusion’s war to destroy the Donald Trump campaign.
“This is a defamation case brought by three international businessmen who were defamed in widely disseminated political research reports commissioned by political opponents of candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election cycle,” says a Dec. 12 filing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“The reports are gravely damaging in that, directly or by implication, they falsely accuse the plaintiffs — and Alfa, a consortium in which the plaintiffs are investors — of criminal conduct and alleged cooperation with ‘Kremlin’ to influence the 2016 presidential election,” says the complaint by the New York law firm Carter Ledyard & Milburn.
Fusion responded in court by relying on Wikipedia and its press citations to paint a dark picture of three oligarchs who, the media say, capitalized on Russia’s freewheeling post-communism era to engage in financial scandals.
Fusion depicted the three as publicity-seeking financial titans who are public figures under U.S. law.
Unlike private citizens, public figures face a high bar in libel lawsuits. In this case, the Russian businessmen, if deemed public figures, must prove that Fusion spread the dossier charges with malice — meaning the opposition research firm knew its accusations were untrue or showed reckless disregard for the truth.
“Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan are three of the most prominent oligarchs in Russian history,” the Fusion memo states. “With their incredible wealth and political power, each has had a pronounced influence on the economic and political affairs of Russia. … Any search returns an avalanche of articles about their business endeavors, their wealth, their political and economic power, their close relationship with the Kremlin and their misconduct.”
At issue is Mr. Steele’s September 2016 writings devoted to Alfa (which he wrongly spells Alpha), one of 17 memos making up the dossier from June to December 2016.
He states that the Alfa Bank paid “illicit cash” directly from Mr. Fridman and Mr. Aven to Mr. Putin via Oleg Govorun, now a senior Kremlin figure, “throughout the 1990s.”
Mr. Govorun’s official resume states that he was an executive for Alfa only from 1997 to 2000.
Mr. Steele titled the September memo, “Presidential Election: Kremlin-Alpha Group Co-Operation.” READ MORE: WT