Express Newspapers to make payout over 'mafia' libel

The Daily Express has been ordered to pay £35,000 in damages plus costs to a Bulgaria-based businessman it accused of “mafia-style lawlessness”.

The latest payout brings the total disclosed libel damages paid by Express Newspapers over the past 12 months to £1,005,000. That figure does not include at least three cases where damages figures were undisclosed.

On 30 April 2007, the Daily Express published a story headlined: “Nightmare for Britons buying their dream homes abroad”.

It alleged a British couple buying Bulgarian property from Synergen Eood had been intimidated, and had their property set on fire, following a dispute over the deal.

But George St Clare, who runs the company, sued the paper and the reporter, Nick Fagge.

The couple claimed the article suggested their activities were “consistent with mafia-style lawlessness prevalent in Bulgaria”.

The story was retracted in court on 21 July last year, and an apology printed, but damages were only agreed last week.

The claimants’ statement read: ‘These allegations… have proved immensely damaging to both claimants [St Clare and his business], the second claimant whose business goodwill has suffered, and the first claimant whose personal and professional reputation has been acutely damaged.”

The Express story was followed up on various property websites. On one, St Clare commented: “I suggest you remove this trash about me immediately. Various people are already being sued in respect of this type of libel.”

As well as damages, Express Newspapers was also ordered to pay the claimants’ costs, plus eight per cent interest.

This week the Sunday Express agreed to pay “substantial” but undisclosed libel damages after falsely alleging fund management executives had dishonestly kept £1bn of their clients’ money.

The paper printed an apology to Pentagon Capital Management, its chief executive Lewis Chester, managing director Jafar Omid and founder David Chester, over claims made in a July 2008 story headlined: “David Cameron’s friend and £1bn he won’t give back.”

In March last year, Express Newspapers paid £550,000 in damages to Kate and Gerry McCann,and in October it paid a further £375,000 to the ‘Tapas Seven’over stories also linked to the Madelaine Mccann disappearance.

In December, the Express paid £45,000 to a Muslim cleric from Bolton it accused of extremism. Undisclosed damages were paid by Express Newspapers to football agent Willie McKay last February.

Last month, the Daily Express’s stablemate, the Daily Star, paid undisclosed damages to a woman it falsely accused of calling Sean Mercer, Rhys Jones’ killer, ‘a hero”.

And, in December, the Daily Star Sunday paid damages to Matt Lucas and David Walliams after accusing their Little Britain USA series of going “beyond the scope of acceptable public viewing”.

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