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February 24, 2021

Broadsheet ends up paying Rs4.5m to Sharif family in London lawsuit

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February 24, 2021

LONDON: The Broadsheet LLC, hired to recover money and assets from the Sharifs, has ended up making a payment of around 4.5 million rupees to the Sharif family in the lawsuit before the London High Court, according to legal evidence.

The Broadsheet LLC has made a payment of £20,000 (equivalent to 4.5 million Pakistani rupees) to the Sharif family for the settlement of the Sharif family’s legal costs after having withdrawn the Avenfield Apartments attachment application before the English High Court for the seizure and sale of four Avenfield Apartments in the Broadsheet vs Pakistan/National Accountability Bureau (NAB) case.

The lawyers acting for the Sharif family have confirmed that the payment has been received in their bank account whereas Broadsheet’s lawyers have also confirmed making the payment. The Sharif family’s lawyers, who dealt with the case at the English High Court, said the reason for Broadsheet’s withdrawal was to avoid the humiliation of having lost against kickbacks and commission, and including funds related to public development and welfare projects, and that Mr Yousaf knew that the monies received by him had been embezzled or stolen at the time of receipt."

Justice Nicklin determined the chase level 1, the highest form of defamation, and 2 in the following words: “For the reasons I have given, both contain Chase level 1 meanings. The meaning in Mr Sharif's case is entirely Chase level 1 and in respect of Mr Yousaf, the first meaning is Chase level 1. For the reasons I have explained, the second part of Mr Yousaf's meaning is Chase level 2. Overall, his meaning is a product of the overall impression of the article as a whole and the proper application of the repetition rule as it applies to this article. The allegations made against both claimants are clear and there is an insufficient antidote to lead the ordinary reasonable reader to conclude that the article was suggesting against them any grounds or even strong grounds to suspect, save in respect of meaning (2) in respect of Mr Yousaf.”

The judge added: “I have included in the meaning in Mr Sharif's case elements that capture the important factors that the embezzled funds included a not insubstantial sum of British grant aid and also the separate element, which is clearly present in the article, of money also obtained through kickbacks and commission.

The judgement added: “In respect of Mr Yousaf, I have made clear in the meaning that the allegation is that Mr Yousaf knew that the funds had been embezzled. If that is not made plain in the meaning, it would leave open a non-defamatory interpretation that he had unwittingly received £1 million. A reader would have to be exceptionally naïve to think that the article alleged no more than that in respect of Mr Yousaf. The meaning should therefore make that clear. In Mr Yousaf's case, I have reformulated the meaning in relation to (1) and re-cast it in a form that is, in my view, consistent with the allegation being made in [48]-[51]. Meaning (2) largely reflects the meaning that was advanced by the defendant.”

Justice Nicklin also decided on the issue of costs. Shahbaz Sharif’s lawyer Ms Page QC had submitted that the Court should make an order in favour of Mr Sharif and direct that the defendant should pay the costs as, she submitted, that claimant has been largely successful in the sense that a larger number of elements of his meaning have been found in the court's meaning. She argued that this justifies the court recognising that Mr Sharif is the 'winner' and that the starting point is that the costs should follow the event.

Justice Nicklin noted that the meaning applications are a preliminary issue trial. “That means that determination of the issue is being advanced. Ordinarily, meaning would be determined as one of several issues to be resolved at the final trial.”

The judge noted that a claimant could be wholly successful on the issue of meaning, yet ultimately lose the action if the court found for the defendant on a substantive defence.

Justice Nicklin added: “I do not know ultimately who is going to be successful in this litigation at any trial. Even if it were possible to detect a clear 'winner' on the issue of meaning in this case, there is still a potential unfairness by making what is, in effect, an issue-based costs order at this stage. Although that party might have 'lost' the meaning issue, the party may yet ultimately 'win' at trial. In the ordinary course, therefore, the costs of determination of the preliminary issue of meaning should follow the ultimate event; the result of the action.”

The judge wrote that Mail published a “very general and unfocused” rebuttal by Suleman Shahbaz Sharif about the allegations levelled against his father and family.

At the defamation trial, lawyers for Daily Mail said they were not accusing Shahbaz Sharif and Imran Ali Yousaf of money laundering and had no “actual evidence” of their involvement in corruption.