The billionaire Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft will have to publicly counter accusations that he made loans to a corrupt Caribbean politician after a High Court judge decided that he should have to reply to the allegations. Lord Ashcroft has also been tied to other shady dealings in several other Caribbean countries.
The Hon Mr Justice Eady’s decision is the latest development in a “long and tortuous” legal battle between the Tory’s former deputy chairman and the former owners of The Independent. Lord Ashcroft is seeking damages in a libel action against Independent News and Media (INM), the paper’s former editor Roger Alton and reporter Stephen Foley, claiming he was libelled in two articles in November 2009.
Today [July 30, 2012] Mr Justice Eady decided that, as well as defending its claim on the grounds of responsible journalism in a matter of public interest, INM could also use the defences of fair comment and justification: that the story was truthful. Legal sources said the decision would mean that Lord Ashcroft would most probably be expected to undergo cross examination in court and produce private documents which have not previously been subject to public scrutiny. “The next stage will be for a reply to be served (by Lord Ashcroft) and, in the light of that, disclosure of documents,” Mr Justice Eady said in his decision.
The original articles, which relate to the peer’s business dealings in the Turks and Caicos Islands, appeared three months after the British Government imposed direct rule and removed its Prime Minister Michael Misick, who was accused of benefiting from improper sales of Crown land and taking bribes from developers.
INM’s case at a recent Court of Appeal hearing was that Lord Ashcroft, who bankrolled the Tory party while William Hague was leader, knew companies he controlled were doing business with corrupt politicians but did nothing to stop it – that he knowingly profited from “a culture of immorality”. Mr Justice Eady said the case centred around two payments amounting to almost $10 million made to Mr Misick as loans. “The case against the Claimant is that he authorised this arrangement without ever intending that there should be any repayment and the he did so knowing that Mr Misick was corrupt, with a view to obtaining influence and commercial benefits,” Mr Justice Eady said. [. . .]
For original article, see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lord-ashcroft-will-have-to-publicly-counter-accusations-that-he-made-loans-to-corrupt-caribbean-politician-7987817.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Also see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/feb/05/lord-ashcroft-collapsed-caribbean-firm, http://ambergriscaye.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/429148/BBC_Puts_Lord_Ashcroft_Under_S.html, and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/turksandcaicosislands/5179010/Trouble-in-a-British-paradise.html