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Sunday Times - Alisher Usmanov interview passes Schillings checklist for the Reynolds defence against libel

The Sunday Times has two articles which add some details to, but which do not fully explore, the Alisher Usmanov affair and the disreputable tactics of his shysters Schillings.

It appears that the rich Uzbek has secretly owned Sutton Place for the past 3 years or so, which is located between Guildford and Woking in Surrey, which was formerly owned by US oil billionaire Jean Paul Getty and son. When J.P.Getty was in residence, Sutton Place had the nucleus of the fine art collection which has now become the J.Paul Getty Museum in California, which is richly endowed enough to outbid almost any other museum in the world for artworks.- Getty mansion gives up secret of new owner

This news should depress the property values of the nearby Sutton Place Farm luxury housing development - would you really want the extra security risk posed by a neighbour like Alisher Usmanov, with his bodyguards and enemies ?

The second article is an attempt to present a sanitised version of Alisher Usmanov's history. - Arsenal billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, recalls six years in penal colony

We do not begrudge the author Mark Franchetti having lunch with Usmanov at his country estate near Moscow, but, given the number of other UK journalists who have been flown to Moscow in Usmanov's private corporate jet, and put up at a luxury hotel, we wonder if The Sunday Times paid for the travel expenses for this trip or not.

Usmanov confirms that he was indeed in prison for 6 years, just as Craig Murray alleged.

Why did neither Usmanov, nor Schillings post his explanation of the alleged circumstances of this criminal conviction on Craig Murray's blog, or on their own website(s) ?

This bit of the interview is revealing:

The three young men were sentenced by a military court to eight years for fraud and embezzlement of state property. revealingThat they were jailed despite being the children of high-ranking officials demonstrated that the charges were politically motivated, Usmanov said.

“If I’d really committed a crime, my father, as deputy prosecutor, was sufficiently influential to have spared me an eight-year sentence. He couldn’t come to my rescue because the charges were trumped up for political reasons.”

The idea of a deputy prosecutor having any influence whatsoever in a case involving his own son, is an utter anathema to us here in the United Kingdom, and just shows the depth of corruption which Usmanov obviously still considers to be normal behaviour.

Also, there is confirmation of Usmanov's long time friendship with some close aides of Vladimir Putin:

He also became close friends with fellow students Sergei Yastrzhembsky and Sergei Prikhodko, both now aides to Putin, and was later a pupil of Yevgeny Primakov, who went on to head Russia’s foreign intelligence service and was subsequently appointed foreign minister and prime minister.

Note that there is no mention of Usmanov's financial and political links with Islam Karimov the brutal dictator of Uzbekistan and his nepotistic family.

Craig Murray, whose book and blog comments, as the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan started set off this affair, is not impressed with this interview: - Mark Franchetti Fills His Stomach and Switches Off His Brain

Presumably, from Alisher Usmaonov's viewpoint, this interview does pass the Schillings ten point checklist for the Reynolds defence against libel (download link to a file which you will have to rename with a .pdf extension - such internet expertise - doh !) which they urge their potential corporate clients to

"Keep a copy on your wall for quick reference if a journalist calls. If a journalist calls, challenge their ability to meet each point on the list."

  IssueMeaning  What next?
 1 Gravity

 If the allegation is serious and untrue, the public is more gravely misinformed and the individual or corporate more seriously harmed.

If grave, more responsibility required.

 Convince the journalist of the seriousness of the allegation – this makes it all the more important that they meet the other points.
 2 Of public interest

 The nature of the information and the extent to which the subject is a matter of public interest and concern.

Not the same as 'Interesting'

 Distinguish between stories the public are interested in and the real test of public interest – whether the story is properly a matter for public debate. There is no public interest in gossip, rumour or speculation.
 3 Sources

The source of the information.

Some informants have no direct knowledge of the events. Some have an axe to grind, or are being paid for their stories.

Independent or axe to grind?

 If the source is not independent, you can delay by pointing this out and suggesting the need for verification by independent sources.

One source is rarely enough.

 4 Verification What steps have been taken to check the truth and reliability of the source and the story?

Important if single or axe-grinding source

 Ask what steps have been taken to verify the story. Other similar sources should be interviewed. Tell them who they should speak to.
 5 Status

 The allegation may have already been the subject of an investigation which commands respect.

Is it a bare allegation or an authoritative finding?

 Journalists need to take great care with gossip or innuendo. Demand that the story is verified by a number of reliable sources. Ask if they can prove the allegation is true.
 6 Urgency

 The urgency of the matter. This must be real. 

Never means their print deadline or desire for a scoop.

 Ask the reason for urgency eg is it a time-sensitive food scare and product recall?
 7 Comment

 Whether comment was sought from the subject. 

The journalist must put the story to the subject to get their side.

 This is why the journalist is calling you. They should wait for your answer. You control the timing now, not them.
 8 Gist

 Whether the article contained the gist of the subject’s story.

They must publish your version/side.

 This is why they should report exactly what you tell them you want published. It’s also why you should not refuse to comment and why you should tell them what you want said ‘on the record’.
 9 Tone

 The tone of the article. A newspaper can raise queries or call for an investigation. It need not adopt allegations as statements of fact.

Is the article sensational or is it neutrally reported?

 Ask them to read you what they have written or are proposing to write.
 10 Circumstance The circumstances of the publication, including the timing. This is a catch-all section – use it to point out any other reasons why the journalist has not acted responsibly.

Incredibly [via Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair] Schillings are still trying to portray themselves as some sort of experts at defending public reputations in the online world, with this free seminar aimed at corporate in-house lawyers next Wednesday 24th October. at Halsbury House, 35 Chancery Lane, London.

This is set to be chaired by

  • Rod Christie-Miller Partner, Schillings rod.christie-miller@schillings.co.uk
with speakers

  • Rachel Atkins, Partner, Schillings rachel.atkins@schillings.co.uk
  • John Kelly, Partner, Schillings john.kelly@schillings.co.uk
  • Jenny Afia, Associate, Schillings jenny.afia@schillings.co.uk

who will apparently talk about their alleged expertise on topics such as:

Effectively utilising the available legal tools:

Strategically employing injunctions

N.B. there have been no court injunctions granted or even a "Claim Form (the new word for Writ)" submitted to start legal proceedings, only shyster threats by Schillings to the web hosting company Fasthosts and to some blog and discussion forum sites.

Exploiting the Reynolds Defence Outing anonymous attackers

New Threats and how to protect against them:

The lawless internet Blogs and other social media [...]

Does anyone fancy a late morning / lunchtime session at the nearby Blue Anchor public house, to discuss the real extent of Schillings internet ineptitude and just how counterproductive their shyster tactics have been ?

Matt Wardman has quantified and blogged about the public relations disaster which Schillings have produced for their client, because of the collateral damage to innocent blogs which their threats have induced.

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