A British court on July 8 ordered Christopher Steele to pay damages to Russian businessmen who sued him over claims in one of the memos in Steele’s infamous dossier.
In a lengthy opinion, High Court of England and Wales Justice Mark Warby ruled that Steele and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, failed to properly verify one of the claims in the memo before disseminating it and ordered Steele to pay more than $22,000 each to two of the three claimants.
Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan filed a lawsuit against Steele in May 2018, challenging a series of claims he made in Memorandum 112 of his dossier. The judge determined that all of the challenged claims “are inaccurate or misleading as a matter of fact.”
The judge’s ruling against Steele was limited to one of the five claims challenged by the Russian businessmen. Steele took due care to verify the other four claims, the court found.
“We are delighted with the outcome of this case and that Mr. Justice Warby has determined what we have always known to be the case – that the contents of Memorandum 112 are inaccurate and misleading,” Fridman said in a statement.
“Ever since these odious allegations were first made public in January 2017, my partners and I have been resolute and unwavering in our determination to prove that they are untrue, and through this case, we have finally succeeded in doing so.”
The judge determined that Steele accurately recorded what he had been told by his source. Warby’s decision is the first legal defeat for Steele, who has faced a battery of legal challenges since the release of the dossier in early 2017.
“Orbis BI are grateful for Justice Warby’s clear and detailed ruling in this case and will ensure that our company’s data handling data handling procedures incorporate his various findings going forward,” Steele’s company said in a statement.
Steele’s dossier contained a series of memos claiming that then-candidate Donald Trump colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee ultimately paid for Steele’s work. The FBI used the dossier in late October 2016 to obtain a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign associate.
In Memorandum 112, Steele claimed that Fridman, Aven, and Khan—all associates of Alfa Bank—had shadowy links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Steele was directed to research and write the memo by Fusion GPS, the company that hired him for the dossier work.
The three men’s potential connections to Putin were of interest to Fusion GPS, the firm came into possession of information on an alleged link between Alfa Bank and Trump Tower. Linking Alfa Bank to Putin would thus bolster the overall thesis of collusion between Trump and Russia.
The FBI investigated the alleged Alfa Bank–Trump Tower link and found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Last month, Fridman, Aven, and Khan lost an appeal of a dismissal of a defamation lawsuit against Steele in a U.S. court.
The British court proceedings yielded new details about Steele’s meetings with senior U.S. government officials during the 2016 election. The former British intelligence officer told the court that he became convinced that the FBI and the U.S. State Department worked closely together on the bureau’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
A growing body of circumstantial evidence now suggests that Steele’s dossier played a role in the opening of the investigation against the Trump campaign, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane. The probe morphed into the special counsel investigation headed by Robert Mueller, who, after a 22-month inquiry, concluded there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.