JEDDAH, 9 August 2004 — The UK High Court has awarded Saudi businessman Sheikh Khaled Bin Mahfouz £10,000 damages in a defamation case filed against French author Jean-Charles Brisard and his two JCB Consulting companies. The defendants were also ordered to pay interim costs of £30,000.
In a verdict made public on July 20 following a court order on July 1, a judge found that Brisard and his two companies had made defamatory and false statements about Bin Mahfouz. Under the terms of the UK Defamation Act 1996, the court awarded £10,000 damages to be paid to Sheikh Bin Mahfouz by the defendants, declared the allegations made by the defendants to be false, and also ordered them to pay interim costs of £30,000.
Brisard and his JCB Consulting companies had alleged that a) Bin Mahfouz was one of the main individual Saudi sponsors of Al-Qaeda, b) Bin Mahfouz knowingly supported and assisted in terrorism, as a banker, by playing a leading role in the provision of financial support to Al-Qaeda and as chairman of National Commercial Bank by diverting or being responsible for the diversion of millions of dollars to terrorist organizations, and c) Bin Mahfouz is the brother-in-law of Osama Bin Laden.
The statements were made in a so-called “UN Report on terrorist financing” which the defendants claimed had been commissioned by the UN. They were also repeated on Brisard’s JCB Consulting website. The then president of the UN Security Council, Alfonso Valdivieso, has since confirmed that he did not commission Brisard on a personal or official basis to write a report on terrorism financing. He has also confirmed that Brisard’s report was unsolicited and that the UN did not take any step or action as a result of receiving the report. Valdivieso added that “Mr. Brisard’s conduct and attitude is totally deceitful and marked by the intention to mislead”.
Brisard is also the co-author of the book, “The Forbidden Truth”, which is currently the subject of libel actions in the UK and Belgium by Bin Mahfouz.
Last March, Bin Mahfouz and Nimir Petroleum won a landmark libel action against publisher Pluto Press and author Michael Griffin in the High Court in London.
The suit followed publication of a revised edition of the book “Reaping the Whirlwind”, in which Griffin alleged Bin Mahfouz and Nimir Petroleum funded Bin Laden’s and Al-Qaeda’s terrorist activities.
In the High Court hearing, the publisher and author accepted that there was no truth in any of these allegations.
Griffin and Pluto Press agreed to destroy all unsold copies of the book, to undertake not to repeat the allegations, and to publish an apology on www.plutobooks.com, in the Bookseller magazine and in the British Institute of Middle East Studies Newsletter.
The publisher and author were ordered to pay the damages as well as the plaintiffs’ legal costs. The parties agreed that the amount of damages would be kept confidential.
In April, USA Today retracted a number of allegations against Bin Mahfouz. Last October the newspaper had published an article headed “Saudi Money Aiding Bin Laden”, which contained a number of allegations against the National Commercial Bank and Bin Mahfouz, its founder and former chairman. The article’s author, Jack Kelley, was suspended early this year after it became clear he had fabricated several high-profile stories, prompting the paper to review the article.