A MADRID court is to hear whether a Spanish newspaper libelled Russian entrepreneur Vladimir Kokorev over claims he laundered money for African leader Teodoro Obiang.
The court will decide if El Pais journalist Jose Maria Irujo defamed the Russian in a report in April.
A Moscow court has already ruled that the article was libellous. It claimed that Kokorev and members of his family were involved in a money laundering scheme in Spain for various officials from Obiang’s Equatorial Guinea government.
The scheme involved the purchase of various properties including two in Madrid and one in the Canary Islands.
According to Irujo, the story was based on a report of the Spanish police, which claimed Kokorev laundered “immense amounts of money” derived from political corruption in Equatorial Guinea.
However, the Spanish Ministry of the Interior has issued a certificate denying that such a report exists or that there could be any judicial or police investigation agains Kokorev or members of his family.
According to Kokorev’s lawyer in Moscow, Kirill Yaschenkov it is “absurd” that Obiang would launder money via Kokorev in Spain to acquire a modest 90m2 apartment in Las Palmas, of Gran Canaria.
Kokorov’s lawyer has likened the case to certain recent discrepancies uncovered in British newspapers over the last year.
He said: “to destroy the reputation of innocent people, whether to sell more newspapers or to advance the interests of a certain political or business agenda, does not constitute a legitimate exercise of the right to information or of the freedom of speech, not in Russia, not in the UK and not in Spain”.