Sunday Times in libel payout to Russia's richest woman

The Sunday Times has published an apology and paid “substantial” libel damages to Russia’s richest woman Elena Baturina.

The complaint related to two articles published on 27 September 2009 claiming businesswoman Elena Baturina had secretly purchased the Witanhurst mansion in Highgate, London, for £50m through an offshore company and planned to spend a further £50m on renovations.

At the time the articles were published Baturina was married to an elected official, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and Russian anti-corruption legislation would have required her to make a public declaration of her assets.

Baturina denied buying the mansion and said the articles defamed her in the eyes of those readers who were aware of her declaration of assets.

The Sunday Times yesterday published an apology stating Baturina ‘had no connection with any entity’that owns Witanhurst, and agreed to pay her substantial damages and legal costs.

‘I was astonished that an obvious lie about me could be published by a British newspaper, it sparked a wave of negative press attention directed towards me by European and Russian media which was extremely unpleasant,’said Baturina.

‘I have fought similar lawsuits against Russian media who have published lies, under any pretext, and ignored the facts in violation of my rights.”

Baturina said she will use the payout to fund charitable initiatives including a project teaching the value of tolerance to children.

Her lawyer Hal Branch, of LSG Solicitors, said: ‘From the outset it was made clear that the information published in The Sunday Times was incorrect. The lawyers acting for the newspaper could not dispute this fact.

‘We are pleased that Times Newspapers Limited has finally agreed to resolve this matter on the appropriate terms.”

In March, Baturina won an appeal allowing her to continue with her libel action. She claimed the articles were published to four classes of reader: readers in England, Russia, online, and those who saw repeats of the libel in Russia.

The Court of Appeal granted Baturina’s bid to continue her claim in respect of specific categories of reader but ordered that she should identify specific individuals who had inferred the innuendo she complained of.

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