British billionaire Nathaniel Rothschild has begun a libel action against Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail, over an article that says he arranged a meeting at which the EU's trade commissioner agreed an aluminum deal worth 500 million pounds sterling ($775 million) with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska,The Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
The article, published in the Daily Mail in May 2010, said that Rothschild had flown then-EU trade commissioner Lord Mandelson to Moscow on his private jet. There Mandelson attended a dinner the article said resulted in a 500-million pound aluminum deal between Rusal - Deripaska’s aluminium group - and Alcoa, one of the world’s largest aluminum companies.
The trip Rothschild made with Lord Mandelson was “one of the games Rothschild played to impress Deripaska,” the Daily Mail said.
Rothschild’s counsel, Hugh Tomlinson, argued at the High Court in London that the article made “serious defamatory allegations” and told the court the assertions against Rothschild were “extremely damaging,” the Financial Times reported.
“Although it is true to say that Lord Mandelson is the main focus of the article, Mr Rothschild features as a puppet-master who brings Lord Mandelson into the game,” Tomlinson told the court in his opening statement.
The court heard Mr Rothschild’s testimony that he was “incredibly upset and distressed” at the “extraordinary allegations that [he] had brought Mandelson in to seal a deal” and that they were untrue.
Tomlinson said the “trip to Siberia was recreational” and “no business was discussed.”
Lord Mandelson, alongside the other members of the party travelled on Deripaska’s jet and stayed one night at Deripaska’s chalet. The party visited an aluminium smelter and a power station, the court heard.
Lord Mandelson, who served in several Labor cabinet positions under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, is not party to the action and will not take part in the trial, according to Tomlinson. The trial continues.