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Billionaire Wins Defamation Case Towards Australian Media Group

SYDNEY, Australia — A billionaire businessman gained a defamation case on Friday towards a media group that he claimed had wrongly linked him to a bribery case that implicated a former president of the United Nations Common Meeting.

The businessman, Chau Chak Wing, a well-connected political donor in Australia, was awarded 280,000 Australian ($200,000) in damages within the verdict towards Fairfax Media and the journalist John Garnaut. Fairfax stated it was interesting the choice.

In an October 2015 article, the Sydney Morning Herald, a Fairfax newspaper, reported Mr. Chau’s supposed reference to a global bribery scandal involving John Ashe, a former president of the United Nations Common Meeting. The article was revealed across the time that American prosecutors charged that Mr. Ashe had accepted bribes from Chinese language businessmen to assist their pursuits on the United Nations and Mr. Ashe’s native Antigua. Mr. Ashe died in 2016.

After Friday’s ruling, Mr. Chau, a billionaire property developer who immigrated to Australia many years in the past and has confronted earlier accusations of utilizing his cash to meddle within the nation’s politics on behalf of China, stated he would proceed to donate to “worthy causes as I’ve all the time achieved.”

“I make no apology for my philanthropy, and contemplate it an obligation to offer again after the nice fortune I’ve skilled with my enterprise,” he stated in an announcement. “As an Australian citizen, I’ll proceed to proudly promote optimistic Australia-China relations.”

“I’m within the lucky place the place I’ve the sources out there to me to defend myself when media shops make false and deceptive claims, by the Australian authorized system,” he stated.

In his ruling, Justice Michael Wigney stated Mr. Garnaut’s October 2015 article “detailed Dr. Chau’s obvious wealth, the varied political and different donations he had made in Australia over time, and his contacts and associations with sure Australian politicians on each side of the divide.”

“It appeared to in some way hyperlink the bribery allegations with Dr. Chau’s donations and political connections,” the decide wrote.

Referring to Kingold, certainly one of Mr. Chau’s corporations, the decide stated the article recommended that it was “prone to have far more to inform, whereas all of us study whether or not the extraordinary Kingold kingdom of Australia and China relations was constructed upon illicit funds and sizzling air.”

Justice Wigney stated that whereas Mr. Garnaut asserted that “he had taken care to keep away from conveying something past a powerful suspicion that Dr. Chau had bribed Mr. Ashe, I used to be not glad that Mr. Garnaut had in truth exercised affordable care.”

“Had he achieved so, he wouldn’t have used the sensationalist, hyperbolic and customarily derisive language that he used within the article,” the decide added. “Nor would he have included the assertions about Dr. Chau probably remaining in China to keep away from extradition.”

Mr. Chau’s lawyer, Mark O’Brien, stated that his consumer was presently in Australia, and assertions that he was too apprehensive to return had been “utterly inaccurate and that’s why we sued.”

In an announcement, Fairfax Media stated it was disenchanted that the decide “didn’t uphold our public curiosity protection, which was the one one out there to us below Australian defamation regulation, and was not persuaded by our proof.”

Mr. Garnaut defended his reporting, saying: “I took nice care in compiling this story, constructing on six years of shut commentary. I imagine the story was reported pretty, responsibly and within the public curiosity.”

Andrew Hastie, an Australian lawmaker who has been important of Mr. Chau, assailed the decision.

“Usually talking, we’re involved concerning the impression that defamation legal guidelines in Australia are having on accountable journalism that informs Australians about essential nationwide safety points,” he stated.

A number of Australian politicians have accused China of meddling within the nation’s politics, and final yr Parliament handed a international interference regulation that requires international lobbyists to register on a public listing. The laws additionally makes it unlawful to interact in any covert exercise on behalf of a international authorities that goals to affect the method of Australian politics — together with actions usually protected in a democracy, like organizing a rally.

Beforehand, Duncan Lewis, Australia’s intelligence chief, recognized Mr. Chau, an Australian citizen, as a potential agent of China’s authorities.

Mr. Lewis, the director of the Australian Safety Intelligence Group, warned politicians towards accepting contributions from Mr. Chau.

The Australian Broadcasting Company faces a separate defamation case filed by Mr. Chau for its reporting.

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