Jersey Evening Post wins court battle to lift secrecy

The Jersey Evening Post has won a 15-month battle to lift secrecy surrounding a court case involving an Arab sheikh and three offshore trusts.

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor al-Thani, has dropped his appeal against a judgment given by Jersey’s Royal Court in December in favour of the newspaper which had successfully challenged draconian reporting restrictions imposed during the case.

Sheikh Hamad has agreed to pay all of the Post’s £80,000 costs.

His own costs are estimated to have run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The decision to drop the appeal was made, said the sheikh, because he wanted to concentrate on his role in the coalition war effort.

The case involved the alleged payment into the trusts of bribes given to the Sheikh by arms contractors.

The Evening Post has now been given access to a court judgment of 2001 -the case began in May 2000 – which revealed criticism of the sheikh and a Jersey trust corporation which administered three trusts on his behalf.

The sheikh has already paid £6bn into the Jersey exchequer for “perceived damage”.

In the judgment, the sheikh was accused by Attorney-General William Bailhache of colluding with the trust corporation to keep vital information from the court as the sheikh sought to freeze tens of millions of pounds in the trusts.

Evening Post editor Chris Bright said: “The outcome of the proceedings has vindicated the stand taken by this newspaper 15 months ago, when we were threatened with a contempt of court action for reporting the mere existence of the Qatar case.

“It is a fundamental principle of society that justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done and our concern throughout has been to safeguard the freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”

The court battle has resulted in new court guidelines on open justice.

By Jean Morgan

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