Viktor Linnik, President of Miratorg Agribusiness Holding, a Russian privately-held agribusiness company based in Moscow, and his brother, Alexander Linnik, the chairman of the Miratorg board, continue their efforts to prove in the courtroom the Moscow Post news portal “defamed” their business by publishing false information about it.
For example, it made public “an open secret” that money can be drained from Russia through offshore companies. The next round of confrontation between the holding and independent reporters has taken place in the arbitration tribunal of Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad region.
Miratorg Agribusiness Holding has no complaints against Vladimir Putin. The Linnik brothers are blaming objectionable media, reporters and some of the parties represented in Russian parliament.
A Moscow Post correspondent did an investigation to establish the difference between damaging materials and the information that Miratorg finds to be objectionable. Legal battles have been going on for months. The Linnik brothers put forward a long list of demands for the Moscow Post. Namely, removal of objectionable articles, refutations, and, of course, monies in the amount of 500,000 rubles ($7,115) for moral damage to each brother.
In particular, they did not like the Moscow Post’s article, which said that Miratorg Agribusiness Holding might build a pig farm at one of the sites where the Battle of Kursk, the largest clash of armoured forces in the history of World War II, had taken place. However, the Linnik brothers didn’t deny it. They were more interested in less obvious facts published in the article. So, they decided to bring in an army of lawyers and linguists to help them.
On June 3, a regular session of the arbitration tribunal was held in St. Petersburg. During the session, a decision on whether the help of linguists would be necessary was made.
Mikhail Yemelyanov, a lawyer for Miratorg, said that the holding is requesting the appointment of a forensic linguistic examination. Polina Raguzina, the trial judge, tried to make a decision if it is appropriate when, in fact, the subject of the dispute is a couple of quotes.
As the Moscow Post stated, the court would probably assess them without assigning an expert examination, since in this case the only thing required is command of the Russian language. However, the Linnik brothers’ defenders were adamant. According to them, the defamatory information can be presented indirectly – in the form of allegories and hints.
Polina Raguzina gave an opportunity to make the analysis of equivocation to Miratorg’s lawyer.
As an example, she cited the disputed quote from the article: “Doesn’t this indicate that money might be withdrawn from the company?” Then she asked how the plaintiffs would interpret this saying from the point of view of linguistics.
However, Yemelyanov ignored Raguzina’s question. Apparently, the company's lawyers realized that there is no need to address linguists. It is obvious that an interrogatory sentence is not affirmative. Therefore, the hysteria about the defamed reputation is far-fetched.
The lawyer rushed to cite another example. The representatives of Miratorg Agribusiness Holding were most concerned about the “offshore issue.”
No Claims Against Putin
As stated in the disputed article of the Moscow Post, Miratorg Agribusiness Holding is fully managed by Cypriot companies. The author asks why the company's beneficiaries are hiding in Cyprus despite the Russian President’s demands for de-offshorization.
Miratorg’s representatives were outraged by the author's following remark: “Offshore companies make it possible not only to hide their partners, but also to withdraw money from Russia.” The question arises who would doubt this? But Miratorg found the phrase defamatory. Why would it be so?
“In this case, we are talking about offshore companies as an economic tool that allows you to hide the final beneficiaries, to withdraw money and to make transfers from the Russian companies to foreign ones,” says Alexander Changli, a lawyer for the Moscow Post. “However, Miratorg is trying to present this phrase as defamatory. Apparently, there is really something to hide. It is difficult to guess the reasons for this unhealthy care for the reputation of offshore companies...”
Notably, the representative of Miratorg himself cited Vladimir Putin’s statement in the court pointing out the negative impact of offshore companies. Then he made a conclusion that the reporters for the Moscow Post presented the activities of the company managed from Cyprus in a negative way.
When asked by Changli whether the plaintiffs are going to call the Russian President as a defendant, they said that they had no claims against Vladimir Putin. Certainly, this is good news.
Miratorg did not like the statements that said the holding was conducting its business with the help of money from state banks.
Abstract from Plaintiffs’ Arguments
Let's take one example: “The state bank is in a share with a private group of companies that runs its business actually for state funds of taxpayers. Then it sells products to them.” Where are the attempts to lie or to defame someone’s honor in this statement? It doesn’t say that it is illegal or unethical to take government loans for business activities.
In other words, most of questions of the Linnik brothers are not about the factual information, but about the way of submitting information. Indeed, the plaintiffs are trying to prove that the author defamed the honor only by taking the liberty to use sarcasm. Is that how freedom of speech look like according to Miratorg?
As Changli says, in terms of common sense, the plaintiffs ' request for the appointment of a linguistic examination is very ambiguous. On the other hand, there is a judicial practice where even in obvious cases of this kind, an expert examination is appointed.
All this is related to the dispute about just one article by The Moscow Post. In addition to this, two other cases are being considered in court regarding other publications, where reporters also have to reflect the “attacks” of the businessmen.
Not only the Moscow Post’s reporters are under pressure from Miratorg. The issue of building of a pig farm next to the graves was also raised by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) in its story on the Red Line TV channel. According to the CPRF, the farm is being built too close to Tyoploye heights, a section of the Kursk Salient, where fierce battles took place in 1943. In addition to the claims related to the memorial, the creators of the video say that the company is building the complex illegally.
Now, the CPRF is going to defend its position in court. Recently, it has become known that Miratorg filed a lawsuit demanding that the channel delete the video. Allegedly, the information was forged. The Kommersant daily newspaper has also published in article on the issue.
Miratorg made things hard for Readovka.ru at the same time for an article about the possible bankruptcy of its subsidiary companies.
According to the authors of Readovka.ru, when writing the article, they drew attention to the data of a court case related to a Miratorg filial company. In response to the claim of the division of the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) in charge of Ryazan and Tambov regions, the company says that it cannot pay the fine, citing Article 50 of the Federal law on Insolvency (preparing a bankruptcy case for trial).
The same lawyer Mikhail Emelianenko did not provide the editorial office with any specific phrases or quotes raising doubts among the representatives of Miratorg, or evidence to the contrary in his appeal. Reporters only voiced their opinion for which, apparently, they might also start visiting courts on a regular basis.
“Half a Million Rubles,” or Lawyers Also Need Money
It seems that Miratorg simply does not like to be criticized. Is that why they see detractors everywhere?
According to Alexey Kozlov, the editor of the Moscow Post, “even before the trial, some people who, as they claimed, allegedly represent the Linnik brothers, demanded either money or the name of the customer of the articles. Then they asked for half a million rubles to solve the “issues.” Allegedly, Miratorg's lawyers also need money and so on and so forth.
“There is no customer or customers,” says Kozlov. “The reporters of the Moscow Post made their investigative reporting based on the information that comes to the editorial office. And there is a lot of information of this kind coming to us.”
Lawyer Alexander Changli also calls into question the true motives of Miratorg's claims.
“It is obvious to us that our publications have never released any defamatory information about Miratorg,” Changli told the Moscow Post. “It refers only to the fact that in their articles, reporters address the subjects that are of people’s concerns, too. For example, the construction of a pig farm near military burial sites and other issues that should be discussed. Without open coverage of such things there will be no normal state.”
The court hearings will continue. Apparently, the pressure on the media from Miratorg Agribusiness Holding and the Linnik brothers will continue, too.
The original article: http://www.moscow-post.su/politics/miratorg_zacshicshaet_chest_svoih_ofshorov_ot_putina32709/