LONDON: A Carter-Ruck lawyer who represented Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his defamation claim against Daily Mail has revealed that the publication categorically stated in February that it no longer defended allegations of corruption made by David Rose against the premier related to corruption in UK’s Department For International Development (DFID) funds for Pakistan 2005 earthquake victims.
PM Shahbaz Sharif was represented by Alasdair Pepper, Antonia Foster, and Katherine Hooley from Carter-Ruck against Daily Mail.
In an exclusive interview with Geo News, Foster said that Daily Mail has deleted its defamatory article and apologised to PM Shehbaz specifically in relation to the DFID allegations, confirming that the paper had lied in its accusations that the prime minister and his family members had stolen money of British taxpayers meant for the victims of floods.
Foster said the headline of the article (“Did the family of Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims, asks David Rose”) published on July 14, 2019, related specifically to the DFID allegations.
She said: “However, there were other allegations within the article about the matters that are before the NAB. That’s a matter for the courts in Pakistan to deal with. So the DM apology is specifically in relation to the DFID allegations and they have withdrawn the whole article.”
Foster said she cannot discuss the confidential negotiations between PM Shehbaz and Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) but revealed that “when the Mail on Sunday put in its defence which was in February 2022, it categorically stated that it was not seeking to defend the DFID allegations”.
The Carter-Ruck lawyer welcomed the victory and vindication of PM Shehbaz after over three years of filing the case.
“It’s a very welcome outcome indeed. Mr Sharif’s primary objective, when the article was published in July 2019, was to seek its removal online and secure an apology. That has now happened.”
“It is just unfortunate that this did not happen much earlier. We sought to resolve the complaint in correspondence with lawyers for the Mail but when it became obvious that this would not be possible proceedings were issued in January 2020.”
“It was only in February 2022 when the Mail served its defence that they finally conceded that they were not seeking to defend the DFID allegations.”
Foster shared that Daily Mail’s allegations related to the DFID allegations were of huge concern for the prime minister and he was determined to clear his name when he decided to launch his case at the UK High Court.
“The DFID allegations were of primary concern to Mr Sharif because they were very serious indeed alleging that he had, effectively, embezzled aid money sent by the British government intended for the victims of the 2005 earthquake.”
The headline of the article related specifically to the DFID allegations. The Mail has now apologised to Mr Sharif for publishing those allegations and permanently removed the article.”
“Mr Sharif has always been absolutely clear that the allegations published by the Mail were completely wrong and false and should never have been published.”
Foster said she knew right from the start that the PM would win the case because the allegations were untrue, hurtful, and baseless and were not based on truth.
She said: “Litigation is almost always the last resort for most claimants because it’s incredibly stressful and time-consuming, even more so for someone in Mr Sharif’s position. We were always hopeful that we would get the right outcome and I am very pleased that we did. Mr Shahbaz Sharif should feel fully vindicated in relation to the DFID allegations.”
Addressing the question of whether ANL apologised over the NAB or DFID allegations, Foster said that the NAB allegations are the subject of separate ongoing criminal proceedings in Pakistan and a matter for the courts there.
She said: “Mr Sharif has always maintained that those charges are politically motivated. It appears that the information that the Mail published was taken directly from the NAB proceedings.”
She didn’t go into the long and tough negotiations between the parties and didn’t address the tweets which were published by Rose after his article was taken down by Daily Mail.
However, she added: “The article coming down is obviously very helpful and very good news. Of course, it’s an out-of-court settlement. the article has come down and that’s one of the terms of the settlement that the article should come down and that’s what has happened.”
Foster said that PM Shehbaz was always incredibly clear that the allegations published by the Daily Mail were completely wrong and false and should never have been published.
“I hope very much that Mr Sharif feels that he has been vindicated in relation to the DFID allegations. I believe Mr Sharif is very happy that these were very serious and false allegations about embezzling grant aid money. Finally, there is a public apology saying that that was never the case and the article has been removed.”
Daily Mail had published defamatory allegations that both PM Shehbaz and his son-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf were involved in the embezzlement of funds and the aid money given by the UK govt to Pakistan.
But it apologised last month for publishing the false article and removed the story from its website after publishing an apology, clarification and retraction.
The publication’s original defamatory article — which has now been deleted from Google and all Mail websites — had linked PM Shehbaz Sharif and Yousaf with corruption, money laundering, and misuse of public funds.