The background to the claim was the death in 2009 of Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison. He was an auditor employed by law firm Firestone Duncan in Moscow who, shortly before his death, had been investigating a tax fraud involving the Hermitage Fund, committed against the Russian federation by a criminal gang.
C was a Russian policeman. D1 was the co-founder and chief executive of D2, the manager of the Hermitage fund. D3 was a company providing investment research to the Hermitage fund, and D4 was a US attorney who managed Firestone Duncan.
The Ds had conducted a campaign contending that a criminal organisation had conspired to take control of the Hermitage Fund, and had succeeded in procuring a large and unlawful tax refund as a result. As part of the campaign, four videos were published on a website, containing material which C said was defamatory of him. C also complained about an interview given by D1 to the BBC, and of an article in foreign policy magazine.
C’s name was included on a list, published under a provision of the US Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act of 2012, of those thought to be responsible for Magnitsky’s death (“the Magnitsky List”).
C pleaded that the words and images complained of meant that he was guilty of the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky, and had done so to prevent exposure of the fraud involving the Hermitage Fund. C also pleaded that it was alleged that he had been party to a previous case of kidnap and extortion, and that he would continue to commit murder to cover up his crimes.
C had tried and failed to pursue criminal and civil proceedings arising from the Ds’ allegations in Russia in 2010 and 2011. In 2012 he issued proceedings in London. The Ds served a defence pleading defamatory meanings which they sought to justify, as well as that the words or images were substantially true in the meanings pleaded by C. The Ds also relied on a Reynolds defence, a qualified privilege defence, and pleaded that the claim was an abuse.
The Ds applied to strike out or stay the claim as an abuse of process under CPR 3.4(2)(b) and/or under the inherent jurisdiction. C issued his own application to strike out certain parts of the defence.