Russian Alfa Bank owners Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan, filed a defamation lawsuit in New York state court this Friday. Politico reports.
Plaintiffs claim that BuzzFeed published unproven argues that years ago one of the biggest Russian banks’ owners were involved in bribing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Also, BuzzFeed added that the billionaires took part in an alleged Russian government scheme to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
According to the lawsuit, the damaging information in the article was unverified and, therefore, BuzzFeed “with reckless disregard of whether [the allegations] were true or false,” harmed the bank and the owners’ professional reputations.
Plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages from BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, reporter Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs.
The bank owners claim in the lawsuit that the article clearly states that the allegations contained in the Dossier were unverified. Therefore… “could not be verified despite substantial efforts. The false and defamatory statements published by Defendants of and concerning the Plaintiffs and Alfa, and the implications of those defamatory statements, were made with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard of whether they were true or false.”
BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said in a statement that it was not only the right thing to do but was even in the ‘public interest.’
“Given that the allegations contained in the dossier were presented to successive presidents and remain under active investigation by intelligence agencies and Congress, there is little doubt that their publication was and continues to be in the public interest.
“That makes it all the more important that this shameless attempt to bully and intimidate BuzzFeed News not have a chilling effect on other journalists who continue to report this important story.”
This lawsuit in the second against BuzzFeed in the alleged hacking of the US Democratic Party. In February, a previous libel lawsuit filed by Alexej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive, for calling his company “instrumental” and “a significant player.”