In a statement in open court [pdf] read today before HHJ Parkes QC, Thomson Reuters Limited, the publishers of the World-Check database, apologised to Finsbury Park Mosque for publishing a profile report which alleged that there were grounds to suspect that the mosque had continued connections to terrorism.
The statement reads as follows:
“The claimant is a company which was incorporated in 2010. It is a registered charity which operates Finsbury Park Mosque and serves the local community in North London.
The Claimant’s object is to advance and promote the knowledge of the religion of Islam for the public benefit. It plays an important role in its local community and organises extensive interfaith events and dialogues.
The Defendant is the owner, operator and publisher of “World-Check”, a subscription-only global online database whose users include banks, financial institutions and other organisations involved in the provision of financial services. The World-Check service publishes profile reports of individuals and entities to its subscribers to enable them to comply with regulatory demands for various types of due diligence and offers auditable proof of due diligence. The subscribers include banks, financial institutions, regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies and other similar bodies and organisations.
The Claimant was the subject of profile reports published by the Defendant on World-Check. In those reports World-Check placed the Claimant in the category “Terrorism”. This was wrong. The profile referred to press reports and allegations from many years ago, long before the Mosque was re-organised and the Claimant company was established.
The Claimant is not a subscriber to World-Check and was unaware that it was the subject of a profile report until this was drawn to its attention by the BBC on 20 June 2015. However, the profile was read by World Check subscribers. Following the publication of the profiles, the Claimant’s bank terminated its banking relationship and closed its account. Numerous Several other banks refused to accept the Claimant as a customer. The Claimant infers that these matters were consequences of the profile report.
In March 2016, the Claimant commenced proceedings for libel against the Defendant in relation to the World-Check profile reports. The Defendant made a qualified offer of amends which has been accepted by the Claimant.
By its offer of amends the Defendant has admitted that the profile report that it published made the false allegation that there were grounds to suspect that the Claimant had continued connections to terrorism. It did not intend to suggest that the Claimant had any current or suspected connections to terrorism and any such suggestions have now been withdrawn by the Defendant which has made clear its regret.
The Defendant has removed the defamatory allegations in question and has agreed to pay substantial damages to the Claimant and the Claimant’s legal costs.
In these circumstances, the Claimant has decided that it will accept the sum offered in damages and will no longer pursue its claim against the Defendant.
The Defendant’s Counsel confirmed this and express the Defendant’s regret for publishing the allegations.
In relation to World-Check see also our post “World Check Database: due diligence or blacklist?” Tamsin Allen.