(es) London/ Vienna. July 25, 2021
Reuters investigative journalist Catherine Belton on Wednesday (July 28) faces the first round in a high-stakes court case started by, inter alia, Russia’s state-owned energy giant Rosneft, over her book Putin’s People. In London, derided by an insider as “a
bespoke sewer” for outrageous but richly-rewarding (especially for lawyers) libel cases, the former FT Moscow bureau chief will face a hugely well-funded army of enemies including three billionaires.
The book’s sub-title How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the West was name-checked in January by Alexei Navalny in a video which then went viral.
The book charts the rise of KGB capitalism, with huge slush funds used to undermine other countries, and the West, especially London, complicit in providing financial, legal and PR services.
Named as a defendant with her Murdoch-owned publisher HarperCollins UK by Rosneft and Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea Football Club, Belton’s own personal assets will be at risk, according to the London Times.
Mikhail Fridman, a billionaire, is suing for defamation and on data protection grounds while Petr Aven, his business associate, is suing the publisher on the same grounds. They insist they have “had no contact with, and did not co-ordinate a legal strategy with the other plaintiffs or their lawyers”. Abramovich has said his legal action against claims that he bought Chelsea FC in 2003 on the direction of Putin was “not taken lightly”. He had attempted to find an “amicable resolution”, he said.
Putin’s People was published in April 2020 in hardback, followed by the paperback in April this year by William Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins.
HarperCollins, said it “will robustly defend this acclaimed book and the right to report on matters of considerable public interest”.
July 7, 2021. Carnegie Endowment for Intl Peace: Conversation with Catherine Belton