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British justice dismisses a lawsuit against five newspapers of the Iberian Press

  • The complaint filed by the children of the former head of national security of Azerbaijan accused the Spanish media of defamation

  • The lawsuit represented a threat to freedom of information by potentially opening the ban on lawsuits in foreign jurisdictions

The High Court of Justice of England and Wales has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against THE NEWSPAPER and four other newspapers from Iberian Press following an article published in May 2020 that questioned He indicated the origins of the fortune of the former head of national security of Azerbaijan, Eldar Mahmudov,

dismissed in 2015. The high court has determined that did not has jurisdiction to judge the alleged damage to the honor of the plaintiffs , who chose to file the complaint in the United Kingdom arguing that this is where is the “center of interest” of their activities. The article in question bears the signature of Marisa Goñi, at that time editor of the 'Diario de Mallorca' and today its director, and was the result of collaboration with various investigative journalism consortia, as well as the British newspaper 'The Observer'.

The complaint filed by Anar Mahmudov and Nargiz Mahmudova , two of the sons of the former head of Azerbaijani security, could have sat a dangerous precedent for freedom of information . And it is that basically it was decided whether it is possible to sue a media outside the jurisdiction to which it belongs, in this case the Spanish justice, despite the fact that the article was published in Spain, it was addressed to a Spanish audience and was captured exclusively in several of the peninsular languages ​​. None of this has prevented Prensa Ibérica from having to defend itself in a regulatory framework that is alien to it

and with some much higher costs of which he would have faced in the Spanish courts.

The failure has given the reason at the end because it considers that the plaintiffs have been unable to prove that there was a actual damage against their interests by the reading of the article in the United Kingdom. Among other things because “there is no evidence” that it was read there by anyone who knew the plaintiffs. In fact, the court has only been able to identify a retweet of the information by a resident of the British Isles. “The scope of dissemination in this jurisdiction is at most minor “and at least” insignificant “, says the sentence. Nor does it consider proven the plaintiffs' attempt to show that their “center of gravity” is in the United Kingdom, when, “according to themselves, they have a substantial presence, businesses, interests, contacts and investments “in Spain.

Collective research

The article that is the subject of the unsuccessful lawsuit listed the real estate investments than the sons of Mahmudov carried out in Mallorca, the United Kingdom and Lithuania, part of a “flore cient family empire that exceeds one hundred million euros “. Only on the Spanish island, the brothers acquired assets worth more than 33 million euros. The report also dug into the origins of the family fortune , initially founded on Azerbaijani oil and later with investments in service stations, construction or restaurants.

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The article was published by the Diario de Mallorca, El Periódico de Catalunya, Diario de Córdoba , the Opinion of La Coruña and Regió7 , all of them accused in the lawsuit of the Mahmudov brothers . The complaint did not, however, include 'The Observer' or the research consortiums Finance Uncovered and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project , who reconstructed together with the Iberian Press newspapers the fortune of the Mahmudov from a Cayman National Bank leak in 2019, a bank located in the tax haven of the Isle of Man.

That decision caught the attention of the court, which wonders why the plaintiffs did not wield any damage to their reputations from the articles published in English when they posed the same questions as their peers in Spanish. .

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