The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld an earlier court verdict to award $1.2 million as compensation to a Canadian businessman over a defamation case he filed against the American internet retailer, overstock.com.
Altaf Nazerali, a Vancouver-based businessman of Indian origin, sued the website seven years ago for circulation of fake news articles written against him. Last week, the court rejected Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne’s appeal against the order of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 2016, which granted $1.2 million to the 64-year-old financial advisor and money manager, IANS reported.
Nazerali is the President of International Portfolio Management.
The lawsuit, filed in 2011, said that Byrne ran a campaign to tarnish his image by publishing defamatory articles about him.
Nazerali had submitted before the court that Byrne tried to portray him as an arms dealer, drug trafficker and financier of dreaded terrorist organization Al Qaida and also linked him with Russian and Italian mafias through a number of articles online.
The articles, written by Mark Mitchell, were published on the American website, DeepCapture.com, also owned by Byrne, which carries conspiracies related to financial irregularities on Wall Street and other parts of the world.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia had also permanently banned Byrne and Mitchell from publishing any scandalous material on the Internet or elsewhere, the Vancouver Sun had reported earlier.
“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,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck said in the 2016 ruling, according to the report.
“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,” the ruling said. Justice Affleck then awarded Nazerali $400,000 in general damages, $500,000 in aggravated damages, $250,000 in punitive damages and $55,000 in special damages for the series of defamatory articles, Vancouver Sun reported earlier.
“The experience was devastating for myself and my family, my personal health was compromised and my business savaged,” Nazerali had said in a statement at that time. “It’s the court of public opinion which is the most important. You damage someone’s reputation through the Internet, it doesn’t matter whether you are in Timbuktu or Salt Lake City or Chicago.”
Nazerali’s family migrated to Africa in the early part of the 20th century from Gujarat. The Columbia University alumnus was born in Kenya and raised in Congo.