President Poroshenko of the Ukraine has settled his claim for libel against the BBC over a report that it broadcast on the News at Ten and published on its website on 23 May 2018.
The central claim of both the website article and the broadcast was that a meeting between Mr Poroshenko and President Trump that took place in June 2017 was arranged after a secret payment of $400,000 was made by intermediaries acting for Mr Poroshenko to Mr Trump’s personal lawyer and trusted fixer, Michael Cohen. It was claimed that in early 2017 Mr Poroshenko was desperate to get talks with Mr Trump but was being offered little more than a White House photo opportunity, and that he therefore instructed two close associates to open a back channel to President Trump.
After a preliminary trial of the issue of meaning on 7 February 2019 Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that the article and broadcast bore the meaning that Mr Poroshenko had procured or authorised a corrupt payment of $400,000 to be made to Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer of Donald Trump, to extend a brief meeting between himself and President Trump, that had already been agreed, into more substantial talks.
On 6 March 2019 the BBC made an Offer of Amends by which it accepted liability for libelling Mr Poroshenko. The President accepted the offer shortly afterwards, and a final settlement of the proceedings was announced today.
Under the terms of the settlement the BBC has joined in the making of a Statement in Open Court in which it accepts that the claims it made were completely untrue, and has agreed to pay Mr Poroshenko substantial damages and to publish a correction and apology on the BBC website. It will also pay his legal costs.
5RB’s Justin Rushbrooke QC and (at an earlier stage of the proceedings) David Sherborne acted for President Poroshenko, instructed by Atkins Thomson. Andrew Caldecott QC and Jane Phillips, who will be joining 5RB on 3d June 2019, acted for the BBC, instructed by its Legal Department.
A copy of the Statement read today can be found here.