Multivision's Nazerali eyes big libel damages
2012-05-30 14:14 ET - Street Wire
by Mike Caswell
Altaf Nazerali, the North Vancouver man suing the Deep Capture website in the Supreme Court of British Columbia for defamation, is seeking a summary judgment for statements that called him a terrorist and an arms dealer. He says the statements are "gravely and outrageously defamatory" and that the defendants are clearly liable. Mr. Nazerali does not specify an amount for damages, but cites other cases that resulted in judgments of up to $875,000.
The damages that Mr. Nazerali seeks stem a series of "chapters" on the Deep Capture site that link him with Mafia figures and an associate of Osama bin Laden, among others. He claims that the site accused him of being a drug dealer, terrorist, fraud artist, gangster, mobster and member of the Mafia. The defendants in the case include Patrick Byrne, operator of Deep Capture and of Internet retailer Overstock.com Inc. Also named was Mark Mitchell, a writer for Deep Capture.
Summary judgment motion
In his summary judgment motion, filed at the Vancouver courthouse on Friday, May 25, Mr. Nazerali asks for an order that would essentially decide the case without a trial. He says that the defendants have clearly defamed him, and have failed to correct any of their information. The motion states: "In this case, the published statements are gravely and outrageously defamatory, alleging reprehensible and criminal conduct, and the words are explicitly about the plaintiff by name. Liability is clear."
Mr. Nazerali complains that he has been placed in the difficult position of having to explain the defamatory information and of having to worry about the effect it may have on his reputation. He says his business, church and community reputation is of "vital importance" to him and his livelihood.
When it comes to the amount of damages, Mr. Nazerali cites other cases he says are similar, the largest being the libel suit that Vancouver Sun reporter David Baines won against stock tout George Chelekis and others in 1998. In that case, the judge awarded $675,000 in general damages against three groups of defendants plus $200,000 in punitive damages.
Mr. Nazerali says aggravated damages are also appropriate because of the "terrible amount of repetition ... and for the taunting and threats and attempts at intimidation" he has suffered. He further asks that the judge impose punitive damages. "Here, the Defendant clearly needs to be punished for his outrageous behaviour and deterred from continuing," the motion states.
Mr. Byrne and Mr. Mitchell have not responded to the motion, and a judge has not yet ruled on it.
Nazerali's notice of claim
The suit began on Oct. 19, 2011, when Mr. Nazerali filed a notice of claim at the Vancouver courthouse against Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Byrne. He complained about several chapters on the Deep Capture site that linked him with criminal activity.
One identified him as a member of a "small pack of closely affiliated market manipulators who traded through Global Securities." The members included short-seller Anthony Elgindy (now jailed in the U.S.) and financier Rakesh Saxena (who is on trial in Thailand for embezzlement). It also accused him of having Middle Eastern connections, stating: "Ali Nazerali got his start as an arms dealer to the mujahedeen. Later Nazerali was the top employee of Abbas Gokal, a Pakistani intelligence asset who now resides in Tehran, where he serves as an important financial advisor to the Iranian regime."
Another chapter, from July, 2011, accused him of having connections to organized crime. It stated that he was an important figure at the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, "the massive criminal enterprise that did business with everyone from La Cosa Nostra and the Russian Mafia to Colombian drug cartels." His business partners, as listed in the passage, included Mufti al Abbar, "chief market manipulator for Muammar Qadaffi," and "an impressive number of securities traders who are also narco-traffickers (such as Paul Combs, until Combs was whacked by Nazerali's mobster friend Egor Chernov)."
The suit sought damages and a permanent injunction. Vancouver lawyer Dan Burnett of Owen Bird Law Corp. filed the suit on Mr. Nazerali's behalf.
Byrne and Mitchell's response
Mr. Byrne and Mr. Mitchell, in a response filed on Dec. 28, 2011, denied any wrongdoing. They claimed that the article is true. If it is not, then it is protected by libel defences called fair comment or responsible communication, they said.
The men also complained that B.C. is not the appropriate jurisdiction to hear the case. They both live in the U.S., where courts will only enforce foreign defamation judgments if the issuing country recognizes the protection the U.S. Constitution provides for freedom of expression. (Canadian libel laws are generally recognized as not meeting that criteria, as they are less protective of free speech than those in many jurisdictions, especially the U.S.)
The response also complained about an order that Mr. Nazerali obtained early in the case that shut down the Deep Capture site for a time. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Byrne said they suffered substantial losses as a result of the injunction. If Mr. Nazerali becomes entitled to any damages, those damages should be offset by their losses.
North Vancouver libel specialist Roger McConchie filed the response on their behalf.
While Mr. Nazerali has had roles with many junior companies, his only current role is as the president of Multivision Communications Corp., a thinly traded TSX Venture Exchange listing.