Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, the major shareholder in Arsenal FC, today accepted a formal apology at London’s High Court after The Mail on Sunday linked him to rape and murder allegations.
The 54-year old, with a net worth of $9.3billion (£4.6bn) according to the Forbes Rich List, sued over the article on 2 December 2007 headlined “The corruption of football is no laughing matter Harry”.
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His counsel, Richard Parkes QC, told judge Mr Justice David Eady: ‘The natural and ordinary meaning in so far as it related to the claimant was that there might be reasonable grounds to suspect him of being guilty both of rape and of involvement in the killing of a Russian journalist, despite the claimant’s earlier public denials, to the UK press, of rape and involvement in the death, which became necessary after a series of sensational and ill-founded claims were made against him after he first announced his interest in Arsenal.
‘The allegations are entirely false and were deeply offensive and embarrassing to the claimant.”
He said that Usmanov sought an apology immediately, but that when this was not forthcoming, issued libel proceedings against publishers Associated Newspapers, The Mail on Sunday’s publisher.
He continued: ‘The defendant has since agreed to publish an apology in The Mail on Sunday in order to apologise for the distress and embarrassment caused by the allegations, which it acknowledges were false and without any foundation. It has accepted and acknowledged that Mr Usmanov has never been accused of, charged or found guilty of either offence.
‘In the circumstances, Mr Usmanov considers that he has been fully vindicated and accordingly is happy to bring these proceedings to a close.’
Usmanov, who owns a substantial house in Surrey, currently owns a 24.2 per cent stake in Arsenal through investment vehicle Red & White Holdings Ltd, in which he holds a 50 per cent share.