Chelsea Football Club owner, Roman Abramovich and other Russian billionaires have sued a British Journalist over a book about the rise of President Vladimir Putin.
The Journalist, Catherine Belton, a former Financial Times correspondent in Moscow, and publisher Harper Collins faced defamation claims at the High Court in London.
Belton’s book, “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and then Took on the West,” charts the rise to wealth and power of former KGB agent Putin and a circle of associates after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Mr. Abramovich says the book’s claim that he purchased Chelsea football club in 2003 at Putin’s direction is “false and defamatory. The Journalist is also being sued for libel by Russia’s state-owned energy firm, Rosneft while the publisher faces a libel suit from Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman.
Harper Collins has also been sued by Russian banker Petr Aven for alleged data protection breaches. Free speech groups have expressed alarm at the case, saying it is too easy for wealthy people to use British courts to silence criticism.
HarperCollins says it plans to “robustly” defend itself. British lawyer Hugh Tomlinson who is representing Abramovich, Fridman and Aven, has denied reports of “coordination” between the claimants. He said the three men retained him “coincidentally and entirely independently.”