Guardian is 'bewildered' with Tesco libel claim

The Guardian has expressed its ‘bewilderment’over supermarket giant Tesco’s decision to continue its legal action for libel and malicious falsehood over accusations of tax avoidance.

The paper last weekend apologised for claiming that Tesco had avoided up to £1bn of corporation tax on property sales through companies based in the Cayman Islands, admitting that the figure was instead ‘around £100m”.

In a two-page article, a leader and in its corrections column, the paper also admitted that the tax avoided was the four per cent stamp duty land tax, not corporation tax.

Guardian bosses had hoped that the articles would end the matter, although it is continuing to prepare its defence, to be submitted in two weeks.

The Guardian made the allegations about Tesco in two articles, a leader column and podcast, in February.

Saturday’s leader made clear that if the supermarket giant felt its reputation had been damaged by the stories ‘it must explain in some detail why it has gone to such lengths to avoid certain taxes”.

‘Honest misunderstanding”

A spokesman for The Guardian said: ‘We remain bewildered by Tesco’s use of legal action, particularly the damaging claim that our journalism was maliciously dishonest. If Tesco had told us in November what it finally revealed in April, this honest misunderstanding could have been avoided.

‘We hope this might be the end of the matter. But we will, if necessary, continue to robustly defend the integrity of our journalism… and force Tesco to retract its untrue and damaging claim that we deliberately and maliciously lied.”

A spokesman for Tesco said: ‘The Guardian Media Group has a serious case to answer, and we look forward to receiving their defence.”

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