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London set to lose ‘libel capital of the world’ tag

A High Court decision to throw out two cases brought by overseas residents concerning claims originating abroad has been cited as the ‘death knell’ for London’s status ‘libel capital of the world’.

The tag has accrued as a result of foreign nationals seeking to take advantage of stringent English libel laws by bringing claims against overseas publications which have been viewed on these shores as infrequently as a handful of times.

One case involved a Serbian tobacco distributor, Stanko Subotic, who brought a claim against published allegations in five Balkans titles, none of which were officially published in the UK, which suggested he was a criminal with links to murder.

Throwing the two year libel claim out Mr Justice Dingemans said the claim ‘really has nothing to do with his reputation in England and Wales and everything to do with his reputation in the Balkans.’

A second case concerned a retired Russian policeman, Pavel Karpov, who brought a case against British businessman Bill Browder, who suggested he was complicit in the murder of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky via a Russian website and television interviews.

Ditching this case Mr Justice Simon ruled: “His connection with this country is exiguous and, therefore, there is a degree of artificiality about his seeking to protect his reputation in this country.”

These rulings are being interpreted by lawyers as ushering in the end of libel tourism with David Pryce QC, solicitor advocate for Knezevic, saying: “Although each case was decided on its own facts they do reflect on the way that the wind is blowing which is against English courts determining massive cases that have little or nothing to do with England.”