Independent News and Media apologises to Lord Ashcroft over 'scandalous corruption' reports

Lord Ashcroft received a public apology at the High Court today over articles published in The Independent newspaper concerning his business interests in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

His QC, Warby, told a judge in London that - despite a disclaimer - "the articles published, when read as a whole, did tend to link Lord Ashcroft's name with allegations of scandalous corruption".

Warby, giving the background to the libel action, told Mr Justice Eady that the articles, which appeared in November 2009, referred to Michael Misick, the former premier of the Turks and Caicos, "and a man widely alleged to have been involved in corrupt activity".

Warby said: "Mr Misick was said to have led a 'lavish lifestyle'. The articles stated that loans had been made to Misick by a local bank.

The bank was described as 'Lord Ashcroft's bank'."

He went on: "The articles did not assert that Lord Ashcroft was involved in or linked to any of the corrupt activities of which Mr Misick was accused.

"On the contrary, one of the articles said this, for example: 'There is no suggestion that Lord Ashcroft or his companies were connected in any way to the alleged bribery and corrupt property deals for which Mr Misick is now being investigated'."

He added: "However, the articles as a whole will have given at least some readers a very different impression.

"Both articles were published prominently: the first was a front page splash, and the second a two-page spread.

"The overall impression, to many, will have been that Lord Ashcroft was somehow implicated in Mr Misick's wrongdoing."

Warby said: "Independent News and Media now accept that, despite the disclaimer, the articles published, when read as a whole, did tend to link Lord Ashcroft's name with allegations of scandalous corruption.

"The company is represented here today to apologise unreservedly to Lord Ashcroft for these false implications.

"Independent News and Media wishes to make absolutely clear that it has found no evidence whatsoever that Lord Ashcroft or his companies have in any way been involved with activities in the Turks and Caicos Islands concerning politicians, public officials or others which might be considered to represent bribery or indeed any other corrupt practice."

With the apology and "the other confidential terms agreed, Lord Ashcroft is prepared to let the matter rest".

Julia Varley, for Independent News and Media, told Mr Justice Eady that she accepted everything Mr Warby had said "and apologise to Lord Ashcroft for the embarrassment he has been caused by publication of the articles".

Independent News and Media no longer publishes The Independent, having sold the paper to the Lebedevs in March 2010.

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