LONDON: The defamation case between Shehbaz Sharif and publishers of the Daily Mail and Mail Online looks set to proceed for a trial at the Royal Courts of Justice following both parties failed to engage with each other through lawyers to resolve the case without involving the court – and traded allegations on social media.
The Daily Mail has not issued a public comment since the publication of its story by journalist David Rose, alleging corruption by Shehbaz Sharif and his family in 2005 earthquake funds provided by the Department for International Department (DFID) but Rose has taken to twitter to mount a defense of his story.
The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly claimed in a Tweet that the British news publisher had failed to respond to his legal notice sent prior citing defamation and libel. He said: “Daily Mail stated last month that they would respond to our legal notice on or before 22 Aug & journalist David Rose tweeted on 17 Aug that it would be “shortly”. My lawyers, however, still have not received a substantive response from Daily Mail in defense of their claims against me.” He said: “Daily Mail says that I will receive one “as soon as we can”, but do not say when this will be.”
A source in the Daily Mail, when contacted, said that the publication has received two letters from Shehbaz Sharif’s lawyers at Carter Ruck and that its lawyers were preparing a response.
Speaking to a private TV channel, David Rose defended his story and said the Mail group has already responded to Sharif’s letter. He said: “We responded to Shehbaz’ lawyers several days ago. Perhaps they have forgotten to tell him? We reject any suggestion that our story was, as some have claimed, forged or fabricated.” David Rose said that Shehbaz’ lawyers have failed to specify what the disputes in the article.
A member of Shehbaz Sharif’s legal team said that Daily Mail has not provided any response after asking for more time following the first letter, immediately after the publication.
When asked if Sharif’s pre-action protocol letter didn’t specify what was disputed in the article, the legal team member said that over 12 examples of “defamation and libel” have been quoted which were “false, defamatory and baseless”.
The Daily Mail had alleged that Shehbaz Sharif and his family stole British taxpayers’ money given to Pakistan’s Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction Authority (ERRA) set up to help the victims of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.
The DFID refuted claims made by The Mail on Sunday of aid money being embezzled and laundered by Shehbaz Sharif and his family. Rejecting the assumption that UK taxpayers’ cash meant for earthquake victims was stolen by Shehbaz, DFID maintained that “our robust systems protected UK taxpayers from fraud”.
In a statement, a DFID spokesperson said, “The UK’s financial support to Erra over this period was for payment by results – which means we only gave money once the agreed work, which was primarily focused on building schools, was completed, and the work audited and verified.”