Court keeps Labour lord’s hourly pay from Kazakh-linked company private

A Labour peer has been able to keep his hourly earnings from a Kazakh-linked company private during an ongoing High Court battle, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can report.

Lord Evans of Watford is a director of Jusan Technologies Limited, a Kazakh-linked investment holding company that sued TBIJ, The Telegraph and openDemocracy for defamation over articles published in early 2022. The claim against the Telegraph was settled in January 2024. The claims against TBIJ and openDemocracy continue.

Jusan Technologies submitted details of Evans’s hourly earnings to support its case for serious financial loss - it said that Evans and other directors had to divert significant management time in order to “mitigate reputational harm” apparently caused by the articles. In the UK, a body that trades for profit has to prove serious financial loss to successfully sue under defamation law.

“This is quintessentially private information,” Justin Rushbrooke KC, Jusan’s barrister, told the court at a hearing in July last year. “There is clear evidence that none of the four individuals want their salary or hourly rate or annual pay to be publicly disclosed. They are not parties to the litigation and they are asking, through us – indeed, it is our duty as their employer, or former employer – to seek the court's protection.”

While granting the request to not reveal hourly pay, Mr Justice Nicklin the judge hearing the case, said: “It’s not at all surprising that media organisations, or those connected with or concerned in the exercise of freedom of expression and open justice, will want proper rigour to be adopted to what might be called open justice issues.”

Nicklin granted the application by Jusan Technologies to keep private the hourly rates of Evans and two other company directors for work they did in response to TBIJ’s article. The total amounts, however, were not redacted; Evans was paid a total of $6,000 for his work apparently mitigating loss caused by the TBIJ and Telegraph articles.

As one of the directors of Jusan Technologies, Evans signed a key legal document setting out the company’s case against TBIJ.

Yerbol Orynbayev, the former deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan, was paid $64,000 for his work apparently mitigating loss caused by the TBIJ and Telegraph articles between March and August 2022, when he resigned as a director.

The payments to Evans and Orynbayev are dwarfed by a £720,000 bill Jusan Technologies says it had to pay RJI Capital for public relations work responding to the three articles. RJI Capital, registered to an address in Mayfair, is owned by the US corporate investigator Ron Wahid. Wahid also became a director of Jusan Technologies in August 2022. Magellan Investment Holdings, a now-dissolved company Wahid owned, held shares in Jusan Technologies until last August, a company filing from last month shows. Orynbayev also had a stake in the company up until May 2022, another filing shows.

In accounts filed in 2021, Jusan Technologies said it controlled Kazakh banking entities and other assets with a total value of almost $8bn. That year, Jusan Technologies changed ownership from Kazakh charitable foundations set up by the former president Nursultan Nazarbayev to a charitable entity based in the US.

The lawsuit against TBIJ, The Telegraph and openDemocracy has been classified as a SLAPP – a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – by a team of legal experts for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom. The Council of Europe’s Safety for Journalists platform also put out an alert on the case.

In October, the government enacted a new anti-SLAPPs provision as part of an economic crime law. It means a judge can dismiss a case at an early stage if it is defined as a SLAPP, keeping costs down for defendants.

Jusan Technologies rejects claims its case is a SLAPP and says it is justifiably protecting its reputation.

TBIJ and openDemocracy have said they will defend the claims against them. TBIJ is preparing to submit a full defence to the claim.

Reporter: Lucy Nash

Enablers editor: Eleanor Rose
Deputy editor: Katie Mark
Editor: Franz Wild
Production editor: Frankie Goodway
Fact checkers: Natalie Bloomer and Alice Milliken

Our Enablers project is funded by Open Society Foundations, the Hollick Family Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Joffe Trust and out of Bureau core funds. None of our funders have any influence over our editorial decisions or output

Area:

  • Money

Subject:

  • Transparency
  • Privacy
  • Justice system