Trump-Russia dossier: Businessman loses libel fight against MI6 spy over document leak

Tristan Kirk
·2-min read


(AFP via Getty Images)

A Russian businessman has lost a High Court libel claim against the former MI6 officer who compiled a dossier on Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.  

Aleksej Gubarev sued Christopher Steele over the document which claimed he had “knowing involvement” in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.

The dossier included claims that the US president had been “compromised” by the Russian security service - the FSB - and taken part in “perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB”.

It is featured claims that Russian president Vladimir Putin “supported and directed” an operation to “cultivate” Mr Trump as a presidential candidate for “at least five years”.

Mr Gubarev and his company Webzilla took legal action against Mr Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence, a corporate intelligence company co-founded by Mr Steele, after the dossier was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017.

In a judgment this morning, Mr Justice Warby said damaging and defamatory claims had been made against Mr Gubarev in the dossier, but dismissed the libel claim as the businessman had not proved Mr Steele was responsible for the document being leaked and published.  

“He would have been entitled to substantial damages, if he had proved that the defendants are responsible in law for the publication complained of”, said the judge.

“But he has failed to prove that. So, Mr Gubarev’s claim must be dismissed.”

The judge also dismissed Webzilla’s claim against Mr Steele and Orbis for the same reason.  

The court heard Mr Steele was aware that former US state department official David Kramer was in contact with a Buzzfeed journalist after receiving inquiries about his work, but had not expressly requested that they meet.  

Mr Kramer – without the knowledge of Mr Steele – then allowed the reporter, Ken Besinger, to look at the dossier but had not agreed to him photographing the contents, which were then send on to his editors.  

“(His) conduct in photographing the Dossier was not only unauthorised, it was expressly prohibited by Mr Kramer”, said the judge. “It was that wrongful conduct that led directly to the publication of the BuzzFeed Article.”

Some of the contents of the dossier, which comprised 35 pages of raw intelligence data, have been confirmed, but other claims about Trump remain unverified.  

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