|Vancouver businessman wins $1.2 million for Internet libel|
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Published on: May 6, 2016 | Last Updated: May 6, 2016 6:59 PM PDT
Vancouver businessman Altaf Nazerali has been awarded $1.2 million by the B.C. Supreme Court, which rules he had been defamed by DeepCapture.com. Arlen Redekop / PROVINCE
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Vancouver entrepreneur Altaf Nazerali is celebrating a $1.2-million judgment after a traumatic five-year battle against a “ruthless campaign” to destroy his reputation.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck on Friday vindicated Nazerali, awarding him $400,000 in general damages, $500,000 in aggravated damages, $250,000 in punitive damages and $55,000 in special damages for a series of defamatory articles.
The defendants — Patrick Byrne, CEO of online retailer Overstock.com and of Deep Capture LLC, and article author Mark Mitchell — were also permanently banned from publishing any of the scurrilous material on the Internet or elsewhere.
They falsely portrayed Nazerali as a gangster, arms dealer, drug trafficker, financier of al-Qaida and member of the Russian and Italian Mafias.
“Mitchell, Byrne and Deep Capture LLC engaged in a calculated an ruthless campaign to inflict as much damage on Mr. Nazerali’s reputation as they could achieve,” Affleck concluded in his 102-page ruling.
“It is clear on the evidence that their intention was to conduct a vendetta in which the truth about Mr. Nazerali himself was of no consequence. … Not only are the defamatory words pleaded by the plaintiff damaging to his reputation, these defendants, instead of choosing to tone down their extravagant language once they were sued, chose to pile on the abuse with a narrative of multiple allegations of serious misconduct.”
Affleck slammed Mitchell and Byrne for demonstrating “an indecent and pitiless desire to wound.”
He said the injunction was necessary because the American-based defendants acted with malice and “will resist enforcement of a monetary judgment of this court against them in that country.”
Nazerali said in an interview that he didn’t care if he got any of the money from the lawsuit, which was triggered by material published in 2011 on DeepCapture.com, an Internet website devoted to criminal financial conspiracies.
“The money was never what motivated me in the first place,” Nazerali explained.
“I tried to discuss it with them. I pointed out numerous times that what they had written was incorrect and not factual. I gave them the opportunity to correct their story and … instead of toning it down, they compounded it after I filed suit against them. They invented stuff that was never part of the original publications.”
Nazerali said he was “horrified” when he discovered the outlandish accusations on the website and called the stories “pure fiction.”
He said the experience was devastating, the defamation “the cruelest form of torture and punishment one can possibly imagine.”
His children have been affected, Nazerali testified, he was confronted on social occasions by questions about the allegations, his business has been savaged, and his health so “disturbed” he requires medication to sleep.
“It’s the court of public opinion which is the most important,” Nazerali said. “You damage someone’s reputation through the Internet, it doesn’t matter whether you are in Timbuktu or Ohio or Chicago.
“The fact they decided to test it in court and the fact that they pleaded truth, that they pleaded justification, but at the end of the trial they were not able to present a single witness or present any evidence, that they used this whole thing to try and to intimidate me, is proof in itself, it says so in the judgment in black and white.”
Nazerali, who created four websites during the legal struggle to “get his side of the story out,” said he planned to trumpet the decision.
“They can be scofflaws, but the search engines will respect (the judgment),” he said.
“It’s been a while coming and hopefully now I can go on to do what I do best which is run my business.”