1. Christopher Chandler complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Mail on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined: “NEW SECRET PUTIN CONNECTION”, published on 10 June 2018.
2. The article formed part of a wider investigation by the newspaper into allegations of Russian state influence over UK politics. The article detailed “explosive claims” relating to another named individual, who was alleged to have “bankrolled the Leave campaign” and conducted “secret meetings with Vladimir Putin’s UK envoy”. This named individual was not the complainant.
3. The article reflected on its previous coverage concerning alleged “Russian links” and said that last year it had exposed how the Legatum Institute, described in the article as a “pro-Brexit” think tank, had “helped” Mr Gove and Boris Johnson push for a “hard Brexit”. The article identified the complainant as the “secretive billionaire” who “runs” the think tank. It said that the complainant had previously “angrily denied” any Russian link, but had been accused in Parliament of being a “suspected Russian agent with links to money laundering”.
4. The article reported that the complainant’s “attempts to shrug off the Russian link” had been “undermined” after it had emerged that a company owned by his brother had said in a pamphlet that “the brothers placed their own director on the board of Russian energy giant Gazprom, then teamed up with Putin to launch a management coup”.
5. The complainant denied the article’s claim that he “ran” the Legatum Institute Foundation. He said that it was an independent entity, managed by a CEO who reports to an independent board of trustees.
6. The complainant said that the newspaper had been put on notice, prior to publication, that the contents of the prospectus issued by his brother’s company did not accurately set out his involvement in the changing composition of Gazprom. He said that the article had therefore misled its readers by omission, by failing to make clear that the contents of the pamphlet had been disavowed by its authors.
7. The complainant said that there was no basis for the claim that he had “Russian links”, or that he had denied such an allegation, "angrily". He further disputed the newspaper’s characterisation of him as “secretive”; he said that the use of this adjective was intended to mislead the reader by suggesting that he engages in activities which require secrecy on his part. He said that a mere preference for personal privacy did not make someone “secretive”.
8. The newspaper accepted the complainant’s position that he had no involvement in the management of the Legatum Institute. It therefore accepted that it was incorrect to report that the complainant “runs” it. Notwithstanding this, the newspaper noted that the complainant had co-founded the Institute and continued to provide the majority of its funding.
9. The newspaper said that the focus of the article was not on the complainant; rather, it was a story about another named individual and his alleged “Russian links”. It noted that only the final three paragraphs had referred to the complainant, and the previous coverage concerning him and Legatum. It said that space constraints meant that it was not practical to include all of the details of those previous stories, particularly information concerning the pamphlet. However, the newspaper did not accept that it was misleading to report that the pamphlet had undermined the complainant’s attempt to “shrug off” the Russian link, despite the fact the authors of the pamphlet had, to some extent, disavowed its contents.
10. The newspaper said the basis for the alleged “Russian link” was set out in the article, and the use of the word ‘angrily’ was intended to emphasise the vehemence of the complainant’s denial of that link. The newspaper denied that the reference to the complainant as “secretive”, was misleading or that it carried the connotations suggested by the complainant. It noted that he had only recently consented to any media interview, despite a long and successful career in global financial business. It said that until he had become the subject of media attention in 2017, he was virtually unknown to the British public, largely out of his own choice.
Relevant Code Provisions
11. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
12. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
13. During IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper offered to remove reference to “runs” in the online copy, and replace it with “founded”. It also offered to include a reference to the complainant’s brother’s company’s disavowal of the pamphlet in the online version of the article. The newspaper also offered to publish the following wording in its established Corrections and Clarifications column which normally appeared on page 2, as well as on the News channel of Mail Online for 24 hours, after which time the wording would remain in the searchable archive indefinitely.
An article on 10 June said Mr Christopher Chandler ‘runs’ the Legatum Institute. Mr Chandler co-founded the Institute, and is one of its funders through his business, the Legatum Group. The Institute is an independent charity run by a CEO with a board of trustees. Mr Chandler is not one of them and plays no part in the management of the Institute. We are happy to make that clear and apologise to Mr Chandler and the Legatum Institute for this error. The article also mentioned a pamphlet from Mr Chandler’s brother’s company, Clermont, that suggested they had linked with Russia’s President Putin to launch a management coup at Gazprom in 2001. Clermont has since withdrawn that statement.
14. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
15. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 02/07/2018
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 20/08/2018Back to ruling listing