Miratorg sues for a "C", or the Linniks are left without a million
The Miratorg company owned by the oligarchs Linniks continues to put pressure on the independent press, but the journalists intend to continue to defend the right of the reader to truthful information about their activities.
As the correspondent of The Moscow Post reports, on the eve of the Arbitration court of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region, the court session in the case of our publication against APH Miratorg LLC, the latter won a Pyrrhic victory. The court decided to partially satisfy the claim of the owners of the company, brothers Alexander and Viktor Linniks, who were offended by several phrases in our sensational material From the world of bargaining…
It is Pyrrhic victory because information about the activities of the Linniks’ company during the process reached even more audience. Thus, the main message of this whole process, which the Linnik brothers could count on, did not work. In addition, the victory is not final yet. We will continue to fight for our and your, readers', rights - the decision will definitely be appealed.
Moreover, not all of the Linniks' claims were found to be justified. Of the seven phrases, taking into account the constant clarifications and additions of the claim from the Linnik brothers (as if they did not know what to cling to), the lawsuit decided to recognize only three of the "meat" oligarchs as discrediting the honour and business reputation.
In the case of one of them, the Linniks disputed the thesis that funds from loans taken by private business (the Linniks' business is among them) can be transferred to offshore accounts of foreign companies. As it is known, APH Miratorg LLC, having huge profits in our country (22 billion rubles for 2019), is fully registered to the Cyprus companies Agromir and Saudade Enterprises Limited.
In this phrase, the company is not mentioned at all, but the Linniks considered that in the general context, it was allegedly reported that their JSC APH Miratorg had committed some illegal actions. But the transfer of money between the accounts of companies, including foreign ones, in itself, in principle, is not a crime. So what offended the Linniks? Or is there something we don't know about their offshore activities?
There remain questions to the company about its money and offshores. For example, it would be possible to ask about the finances of its another subsidiary, Miratorg-Bryansk LLC. It, just like the head company, belongs to the Cyprus offshore companies Agromir and Saudade Enterprises Limited. And in the column of profits for 2019, it shows minus 598 million rubles with zero revenue. Doesn't that seem strange?
Another phrase that outraged the Linniks, and which the court decided to recognize as defamatory, sounds like this: "The State Bank is in a share with a private structure which conducts business actually for state funds of taxpayers. And then it sells products to them."
The fact is that the shares of one of Miratorg's subsidiaries, Bryansk Meat Company LLC, are pledged to the VEB.RF state bank. The share is pledged until the full repayment of loans granted since 2010. They were also provided later. For example, in 2015, VEB.RF issued a $425 million loan to the same Bryansk meat company, Interfax reported.
So what in this phrase does not correspond to reality, whose honour is discredited? The position of the plaintiffs and the court in this sense seems very vague. After all, the company's shares are really pledged, and business development took place, including on credit funds issued by the bank?
The third phrase, the requirements for which were satisfied: "What competitors of the Linnik brothers' company can we talk about when they have virtually unlimited state funding in the form of loans. Competitors never dreamed of such a thing."
Miratorg is an impressive structure, much of the work of which is really, most likely, even not dream of competitors. In recent years, Miratorg has expanded, receiving loans, as already mentioned, in state banks, and not only in VEB.RF In the same 2015 year, Sberbank also provided a loan to Miratorg - 7.6 billion rubles at once. This was reported by RIA Novosti. Their number and volume may indeed seem unlimited. So what is it that discredits the holding's reputation? It seems that someone is being too modest. Or do they seek to see evil intent in everything?
"Expert" from the oligarchs
The court's decision was preceded by the conclusions of the linguistic expertise, which the plaintiffs strongly insisted on. Although anyone who speaks Russian, understands that quibbling with phrases is questionable. Moreover, there were doubts about the lack of engagement of experts who would like to attract the "offended" oligarchs.
Earlier, they provided an out-of-court opinion prepared by CLE LIGA LLC. The fact is that one of the founders and specialist of the company is Shcherban Galina Evgenievna. In Arbitration court of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region there are now three cases about protection of business reputation, where the plaintiff is Miratorg and the Linnik brothers, and the defendant - our editorial board. And in every case, the plaintiffs proposed to carry out a linguistic analysis in the "INDiSEK".
But the only expert the company offered was the same Shcherban Galina Evgenievna. Thus, it is possible to believe that an act of bias takes place, as Miratorg and the Linniks on a regular basis engage Ms. Scherban as an expert. Nevertheless, the examination was carried out, its conclusions follow from the court's decision. At the same time, the request of the defendants to conduct a re-examination was rejected - it is not clear on what grounds.
"Half a million" for every brother
In the case of the remaining phrases that the Linniks did not like, they refused three ones themselves, realizing the futility of trying to prove their defaming. Another phrase, which, again, concerned cooperation with state-owned banks (well, where is the logic?) was refused by the court. In addition, the court refused to compensate for moral damage to the brothers - each of them, having a multimillion fortune, demanded 500 thousand rubles.
As a result, we have a controversial court decision and oligarchs who have long been in the habit of suing journalists who dare to talk about their work. At the same time, the plaintiffs' side seemed to be trying to delay the process, constantly clarifying the requirements and requesting new petitions. The plaintiffs' motives are questionable.
Attempts to negotiate with the editorial board by some unknown persons are also alarming. Before the start of proceedings, unknown people, presented as ones associated with the Linniks, demanded that the chief editor of The Moscow Post Alexey Kozlov "reveal" the customer of the article. Later, for the settlement of problems with the brothers-businessmen, they asked for half a million for each Linnik. And these characters were very surprised to learn that there was no customer at all - just the rapid activity of "sausage" entrepreneurs can not but attract attention.
Lawyer Alexander Changli also questions the true motives of the claims of Miratorg agricultural holding:
"It is evident to us that our publications have never provided any defamatory information concerning Miratorg, and we are only talking about the fact that in their articles journalists touch on topics that disturb the nation: the construction of piggeries near military burial sites and other topics that should be discussed in society, and without open coverage of which there can be no formation of a normal state."
We once again remind our dear readers that we are an officially registered media in Russia, we work in strict accordance with the law, and we execute all court decisions in this and other cases within the established time limit.
However, it is disappointing that the courts support claims against independent media from large holdings. Their actions can be regarded as pressure on the media, while the functioning of our economy, as well as the life and health of citizens, depends on the work of such structures, including Miratorg. Their work is of public interest, and we, as journalists, will continue to truthfully inform people about their activities.