Noted hoaxer, Christopher Steele was found guilty of defamation against two Russian bankers he accused of paying off Vladimir Putin and was included in the Steele dossier.
He has been ordered to pay Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, two owners of Alfa Bank $18,000 pounds each for lying about them in the dossier without even trying to verify his facts.
Steele claimed that the bank made illicit payments to Putin and continued to do significant favors for him still. The ruling, handed down by Sir Mark Warby, a justice on the high court of England and Wales marks the first court defeat for Steele but will hardly be his last.
Warby determined that Steele’s allegation about illicit payments was false and that he made no attempt to verify his information before publishing his fake dossier. Warby ruled that Steele’s allegations were “inaccurate or misleading as a matter of fact.”
“The steps taken to verify [this] proposition fell short of what would have been reasonable,” the justice also said, adding that “the allegation clearly called for closer attention, a more enquiring approach, and more energetic checking.”
“My findings are analogous to a finding of liability for libel.”
Warby emphasized Steele’s admission during cross-examination in mid-March that the dossier contained inaccurate information regarding a Russian he claimed served as the bag man for an alleged scheme between the bankers and Vladimir Putin.
Steele alleged that Oleg Govorun made the secret payments on Alfa’s behalf to Putin when he served as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg.
But the bankers’ lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, forced Steele to concede that the allegation was inaccurate because Govorun did not start working for Alfa Bank until after Putin was no longer deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Steele testified that he conducted a single internet search regarding Govorun before adding the information to the dossier.
“It is unclear what efforts Mr. Steele made to verify this allegation, other than the one relevant internet search to which he has referred,” Warby said in his ruling. “Mr. Steele’s evidence as to the single relevant internet search he undertook was unimpressive.”