Nathaniel Rothschild loses libel case

 

Banker Nathaniel Rothschild today lost his bid to win substantial
libel damages over a Daily Mail story which he said portrayed him as a
"puppet-master" who brought together Lord Mandelson and Russian oligarch
Oleg Deripaska.

The 40-year-old Swiss-based financier immediately said he would appeal, after Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that Associated Newspapers had established that the meaning of the May 2010 story was substantially true, despite admitted inaccuracies.

The newspaper's case was that Mr Rothschild took Lord Mandelson, then European Commissioner for Trade, on a January 2005 trip to Siberia in order to impress Mr Deripaska, when he knew, or ought to have known, that if anyone found out about it, Lord Mandelson would have been compromised.

It was also said there were grounds for believing that Lord Mandelson discussed aluminium tariffs with Mr Deripaska and Mr Rothschild encouraged the inappropriate relationship.

The judge, who heard the action at London's High Court without a jury, said he accepted the newspaper's submission that Mr Rothschild's conduct was inappropriate in a number of respects.

"In my judgment, that conduct foreseeably brought Lord Mandelson's public office and personal integrity into disrepute and exposed him to accusations of conflict of interest, and it gave rise to the reasonable grounds to suspect that Lord Mandelson had engaged in improper discussions with Mr Deripaska about aluminium."

He said that, if he had found against the newspaper, he would have made only a modest damages award of £3,000.

Mr Rothschild's evidence was that the presence of Lord Mandelson on the overnight trip to Abakan with himself, another friend, Sebastian Taylor, Peter Munk, chairman of Barrick Gold, and Mr Deripaska, who had a chalet nearby, was "purely social".

It included visiting a smelter facility and its museum, a banya - a Russian-style sauna - skiing, five-a-side football, ice-hockey, Russian billiards and entertainment by a Cossack band.

But, the newspaper's counsel, Andrew Caldecott QC, said it was "way beyond the norm" for a Russian oligarch to be flying the trade commissioner, who he did not know well at the time, in his private jet to his private chalet to be wined and dined.

It was accepted that there were recreational moments, but the heart of the purpose of the trip was plainly to allow Mr Deripaska to get to know Lord Mandelson better, and the newspaper said that was inappropriate.

"Businessmen discuss business on ski lifts - and when they are having banyas. You may have a recreational background to a business discussion," he said.

The judge said there were at the very least reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Deripaska's interest in providing such luxurious and generous hospitality was as the QC suggested.

"And I cannot accept that Mr Rothschild was unable to foresee this at the time he invited Lord Mandelson on the trip. In my judgment Mr Rothschild did appreciate this at the time."

He said that, by "facilitating" the development of a relationship between the two men, Mr Rothschild was conferring a benefit on, and seeking to please, both of them.

"So far as Lord Mandelson was concerned, the benefit was the trip and the hospitality itself.

"So far as Mr Deripaska was concerned, it was a relationship with the EU Trade Commissioner."

The judge said he accepted that, to a limited extent, Mr Deripaska had already got to know Lord Mandelson at the World Economic Forum that January.

"But it is one thing to meet a person on neutral ground, where neither is giving a benefit to the other, and another thing to welcome a person into your private plane and your home."

He said it was probable that on the visit to the aluminium smelter, at which they were photographed standing with a guide, the party talked about aluminium, although it did not follow - and he did not find - that they talked about tariffs.

Nor did he find that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that Lord Mandelson talked about aluminium tariffs.

Lord Mandelson and Mr Deripaska were not parties to the action and did not take any part in the trial.

It was emphasised that the case was not about them and the newspaper made no allegations they had done anything wrong.

Mr Rothschild said later that he was disappointed with the ruling although he did not regret bringing the action.

"I brought this action seeking an apology for the Daily Mail's utterly false claim that I had arranged for Lord Mandelson to attend a dinner in Moscow to close a deal between Alcoa and Rusal and that this had caused the loss of 300 British jobs.

"The truth is, as the Daily Mail has now accepted, that I had nothing whatsoever to do with this deal and that it had in any event been completed before Lord Mandelson and I even arrived in Moscow.

"Lord Mandelson's trip to Russia was entirely recreational - as the court has accepted - and Lord Mandelson had obtained clearance for the trip from his office before undertaking it."

A Daily Mail spokesman said: "We are pleased with Mr Justice Tugendhat's judgment, which vindicates our reporting of this story."

He added: "This case is a reminder, at a time when newspapers are under attack for invading privacy, that the rich and powerful regularly use the law to prevent legitimate scrutiny of their activities. Had the Mail lost this case, it could have incurred costs of more than £1 million.

"Not many news organisations, however committed they are to free speech, can afford to risk a loss of that magnitude.

"As Lord Justice Leveson's Inquiry considers the balance between privacy and freedom of expression, the chilling effect on free speech that court cases like this one exert needs to be borne in mind."

PA

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
News
Supermarkets are running out of Easter Eggs
Deals make eggs cheaper than normal chocolate
Life & Style
Wasp factory: 1.3 million examples of the Vespa scooter have been sold in the last decade
motoringIconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Business, Marketing and Tourism Volunteer Projects

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: As part of an ongoing effort to support local...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books