OCCRP-Related Lawsuit Settled
For almost two years, OCCRP has been embroiled in a costly and time-consuming lawsuit brought against Paul Radu, the organization's co-founder, in London by an Azerbaijani businessman and member of parliament, Javanshir Feyziyev. Feyziyev was mentioned in our investigative project on the Azerbaijani Laundromat, a money-laundering network and financial fraud vehicle that moved billions of dollars through shell companies around the world, in his capacity as the one-time director and owner of Avromed, a major pharmaceutical company.
A UK court found the article could be “reasonably interpreted” as accusing Feyziyev of being involved in money laundering. Upon bringing suit, he denied any involvement.
Late last week, on the eve of the trial, lawyers for the claimant offered to settle the case on favorable terms for Radu. This successfully ends a lengthy and complicated suit that put OCCRP staff at serious financial risk. From the beginning, OCCRP felt there was no merit to the suit and continues to stand by its story as written, and the article mentioning Feyziyev will remain on our website.
OCCRP thanks the solicitors from Weil, Gotshal & Manges for their excellent pro bono support, which made our defense possible; the amazing depth and expertise of the barristers from Doughty Street Chambers, who took the time to understand a highly complex case; and our counsel Alex Papachristou of the Cyrus Vance Center of the New York City Bar, who helps manage all our legal defenses. OCCRP is also thankful for support for its legal efforts from Press Freedom Defense Fund, a program of First Look Media Works.
As part of the settlement, OCCRP agreed for the following statement to be posted on its website:
"Javanshir Feyziyev brought libel proceedings over two articles published on the OCCRP website. The court determined that the articles had the legal meaning that there were grounds to suspect him of involvement in money laundering, but not that he was guilty of money laundering or any criminal conduct.
The parties agreed to settle those proceedings. OCCRP has agreed to add to the articles the fact that Mr Feyziyev categorically denies involvement in money laundering or any unlawful activity.”
On another note, OCCRP believes the UK legal system is particularly susceptible to vexatious lawsuits. The UK urgently needs anti-SLAPP legislation penalizing what are known as strategic lawsuits against public participation: frivolous cases brought against journalists or other members of the public with the sole intention of intimidating and censoring them. Particularly outrageous is that local reporters writing on corruption in their own home countries must consider the UK's divergent media standards when writing their stories, often including almost nonsensical content to demonstrate a UK public interest need, simply because assets have been parked in the UK by a foreign national who may or may not have earned them legitimately.