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Tuesday November 30, 2021

Due to corona pandemic, UK’s travel ban: Daily Mail seeks time to gather evidence against Shehbaz

May 09, 2021

LONDON: The lawyers for ‘Mail on Sunday’ and reporter, David Rose, have pleaded the London High Court seeking more time to file defence in a defamation case brought by former Punjab chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif and Ali Imran Yousuf, his son-in-law.

The court sources have confirmed that the defence lawyers for the Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), publishers of Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, pleaded the court seeking four more months to gather evidence from Pakistan, citing Covid-9 pandemic restrictions as the reason for delay in gathering evidence, and therefore, failing to meet the deadline set for the submission of the evidence. Justice Sir Matthew Nicklin of the London High Court had set a timeline in the first week of February 2021, asking the paper to submit evidence by the end of April 2021. Last week, the defence lawyers submitted a plea to the court seeking two more months to gather evidence.

Former CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif and his son-in-law Ali Imran Yousuf have their separate lawyers, who agreed to give the defence more time to gather evidence, as it was a standard practice. However, Ali Imran Yousuf’s lawyers have expressed their concerns that the publisher has been employing delaying tactics. It is pertinent to mention that the ANL publishers have requested the court to give time to submit their evidences against the duo, citing inability of the Mail’s legal team to visit Pakistan to gather evidence. According to the court sources, Daily Mail has informed that it would need to interview dozens of people in Pakistan as part of gathering evidence against former CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif.

Earlier, the London High Court had ruled in favour of Shehbaz Sharif and Ali Imran Yousuf in relation to the meaning of reporter David Rose’s article published on 14 July 2019, in which it was alleged that Shahbaz Sharif and his son-in-law were involved in money-laundering and embezzlement of the British money meant for Pakistan’s poor people.

On the occasion, the London High Court ruled that Mail on Sunday’s article carried the highest level of defamatory meaning for both Shahbaz Sharif and Ali Imran Yousuf, asking the paper that it must back up with evidence at the trial for each and every allegation.

The Daily Mail’s lawyer told the court that the paper ‘conceded’ that there was no money-laundering allegations against Shahbaz but his family members. He said, “Actual detailed evidence against Shahbaz Sharif is pretty limited, based on assumptions but his luxurious house is relied on”. Rejecting the arguments of the lawyer, the court ruled that an ordinary reader in Britain, could have understood the meaning to be establishing that Shahbaz Sharif was involved in corruption, embezzlement in the Earthquake Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) and DFID funds as well as money-laundering. The court further said in the natural and ordinary of the article, the claimant was declared guilty at Chase level-1.

David Rose had tweeted after the judgment was published on Pakistani media: “The Shahbaz Sharif defamation case is strictly preliminary. The judgment sets the parameters for the eventual trial, which lies in the future: it determines what the court says the article means. It is not a final outcome.” A Daily Mail source confirmed that the extension between three sides has been agreed. The source said that Daily Mail has faced issues to collect evidence owing to the Covid-19 lockdown and the fact that now Pakistan is on the ‘red list’ of the UK for travel. Meanwhile two months ago, Broadsheet CEO Kaveh Moussavi had alleged David Rose for asking £250,000 commission to fix his meeting in London to settle the arbitration award of nearly £29 million. It is pertinent to mention that journalist David Rose had confirmed that he had arranged a meeting between Pakistan’s Shahzad Akbar and Broadsheet CEO Kaveh Moussavi but didn’t ask for commission.