Judge says book arguing Abramovich bought Chelsea under Putin’s defamatory orders

LONDON (Reuters) – It was claimed in a book that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea A British judge ruled Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin’s order to gain influence in Britain is libel.

In the book published in 2020, British journalist Catherine Bilton recounts Putin’s rise to power and the number of his aides, belonging to the former Soviet intelligence services, who rose to positions of wealth and influence after he joined the Kremlin in 1999.

A lawyer for Abramovich argued in court that passages from HarperCollins’ book Putin’s People: How the KGB Regained Russia and Then Seized the West were defamatory.

The businessman filed a lawsuit against both HarperCollins and Belton.

“The reader’s impression is that the Kremlin used the Chelsea purchase to gain acceptance and influence for Russia in the UK,” Judge Amanda Tables said in a ruling on the meaning of the words used.

He noted, “The deceptive way in which this was accomplished was to use the plaintiff, the person who was seen as the accepted face of Russian business, as a front for it. That was my impression when I read the book.”

“In my opinion, these clips (…) will not make the average reader suspect that the plaintiff bought Chelsea on Putin’s orders,” says the verdict. “In conclusion, the meanings you have specified are all defamation of the plaintiff.”

The judge said that the court decides only on the meaning of the passages and not whether the allegations in the book are true. The defendants have not yet had to present a defense.

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Beltone, a former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times and now a special correspondent for Reuters, declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Jay Faulconbridge; Editing in Spanish by Javier Lira)

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