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By John Helmer, Moscow

The UK High Court action by the Schillings law firm, acting for Nathaniel Rothschild in a libel claim against the Daily Mail and Associated Newspapers, was dismissed today by Justice Sir Michael Tugendhat. The ruling also undermines libel threats by Schillings acting for Deripaska against newspapers in South Africa, Hong Kong, London, and the US, setting a new standard for reporting on the business affairs of Russian oligarchs, their bankers, and public officials whom they attempt to influence.

“In my judgment,” the judge has written, “there is at the very least reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Deripaska’s interest in providing to Lord Mandelson such luxurious and generous hospitality was as Mr Caldecott [advocate for Associated Newspapers] 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. A holder of public office such as a Commissioner is required to make a clear distinction between his public life and his private life…

“By facilitating the development of a relationship between Mr Deripaska and Lord Mandelson, Mr Rothschild was, in my judgment, conferring a benefit on, and seeking to please, both Mr Deripaska and Lord Mandelson. 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. A businessman with such extensive and global interests as Mr Deripaska would be likely to welcome an opportunity to get know a person in Lord Mandelson’s position…

“Mr Caldecott submits that on his own version of events, or on the facts that I have found, Mr Rothschild’s conduct was inappropriate in a number of respects. I accept that submission. 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.”

Here is the full judgement. A further analysis will follow shortly.

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