A Russian-tied tech firm named in a controversial dossier containing uncorroborated allegations about President Donald Trump and the hacking of Democratic National Committee email accounts announced late Friday that it has filed defamation suits against the online news site BuzzFeed, its editor in chief and a former British intelligence agent.
The lawsuits were brought by XBT Holdings, a Cyprus-based company owned by Russian tech magnate Aleksej Gubarev. Lawyers for his firm filed complaints Friday in London against the former spy and his company, and against BuzzFeed and its editor in chief, Ben Smith, in Broward County Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where XBT’s subsidiary Webzilla is headquartered.
“The dossier included libelous, unverified and untrue allegations regarding XBT, Webzilla and Gubarev. The lawsuits seek yet undetermined compensation for the damages suffered by XBT, Webzilla and Gubarev as the result of the publication of the dossier,” a statement said.
New York-based BuzzFeed Inc., which published the dossier in full on Jan. 10, wasn’t alone. Former spy Christopher Steele and his company Orbis Business Intelligence in London were named as defendants in the London suit.
In a statement to McClatchy, BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said Friday night, “We have redacted Mr. Gubarev’s name from the published dossier, and apologize for including it.”
Steele is a former British intelligence agent who conducted opposition research on behalf of Trump’s political opponents from both major U.S. parties. The dossier, which was shared privately with reporters, lawmakers and law enforcement, exploded into the national debate after FBI director James Comey presented it to President Barack Obama and then President-elect Donald Trump.
Among other things, the document alleged, without corroboration, that the Trump campaign had worked with the Kremlin on penetrating Democratic National Committee computers. The dossier alleges XBT’s involvement and names Gubarev, saying he cooperated with Russian spy agencies under duress.
“We were shocked to see our good name wrongly included and published in this unsubstantiated report. We are confident that the courts will review the evidence of our non-involvement and provide fair and reasonable compensation from the perpetrators of this outrageous allegation,” the company statement said.
Shortly after the dossier became public, McClatchy interviewed Gubarev, a venture capitalist whose many companies include web-hosting services, network solutions and data storage. He denied any involvement and surmised that a competitor might have sought to embarrass him.
The dossier said XBT and affiliates “had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”
The British lawsuit against Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence Limited charges that they “deliberately and without consent” claimed that the plaintiffs had hacked into the emails of the Democratic Party, “and had used such unlawful access to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and alter files and programs.”
Gubarev operates at least 40,000 servers across the globe and said he would have received real-time information if there had been hacking or illicit activity tied to his businesses. There is no evidence of that, he said, adding that neither the FBI nor any other U.S. authority has contacted him.
The dossier suggested that several Trump campaign aides were aware of the Russian hacking scheme, allegations that Trump dismissed as “garbage.”
The Florida lawsuit says that neither defendant – BuzzFeed or Ben Smith – had contacted the plaintiffs to determine whether the allegations had “any basis in fact.” Nor have they since, it alleges.
Moreover, the suit claims that even as BuzzFeed and Smith published the information, which they acknowledged at the time contained unverified information, “they knew, without a doubt, that at least certain portions of the dossier were untrue.”
It quotes from the BuzzFeed story, which said the dossier “is not just unconfirmed: It includes some clear errors.”
The suit says the story has been viewed more than 5.9 million times.
It also says that Gubarev, “who is married with three young children” and is not a public figure, “has found his personal and professional reputation in tatters,” his wife has been harassed online and his family’s security has been “compromised.”
McClatchy DC reports A Russian-tied tech firm named in a controversial dossier containing uncorroborated allegations about President Donald Trump and the hacking of Democratic National Committee email accounts announced late Friday that it has filed defamation suits against the online news site BuzzFeed, its editor in chief and a former British intelligence agent.
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