Russian oil giant Rosneft discontinues claim against Putin's People

Russian oil giant Rosneft discontinues claim against Putin's People

Russian state oil company Rosneft is discontinuing its remaining claim against HarperCollins over comments made in Catherine Belton's book Putin's People (William Collins).

In the High Court on 24th November, Mrs Justice Tipples made preliminary judgments in two cases against Belton and HarperCollins brought separately by Rosneft and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich. 

Tipples found three of the four passages Rosneft complained about were not defamatory of the company and therefore will not proceed. Rosneft’s complaint related to claims it participated in the expropriation of the Yukos Oil Company, which had been privately owned by businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. 

Tipples found the meaning of the extracts referred to the way Rosneft was a “a beneficiary of what happened" but as a consequence of a plan "driven by others". She said: “It was not a strategy ‘engineered’ by the claimant and it is fanciful to suggest that a reasonable reader would understand it was." 

However, she did accept that the meaning of the claim that Rosneft "paid $600m to purchase Severnaya Neft, being twice the accepted valuation, so that the overpayment of $300m would be paid to President Putin or his associates in the KGB for their own use” was defamatory. She said: “This imputation is, in my view, actionable as it has a tendency to cause a substantial adverse effect on people’s attitudes to the company."

However, in the wake of the judgment, Rosneft confirmed to the court on 26th November that it is discontinuing its remaining claim.

A spokesperson for HarperCollins said: "To put an end to this case without delay and so it can concentrate on the remaining claim against the book from Mr Abramovich, HarperCollins has taken the decision not to pursue costs against Rosneft to avoid wasting further time on this meritless claim."

In the preliminary judgment for Abramovich's case Tipples ruled nine of the meanings in the 26 passages contested were defamatory against Abramovich, including an allegation that he purchased Chelsea on Vladimir Putin’s orders. Any trial is not expected to take place for at least a year.