x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Gulf News hit with £1m UK judgment

A UAE newspaper has been ordered to pay a British property developer £1 million (Dh6.05m) in damages.

The newspaper Gulf News has been ordered to pay a British property developer £1 million (Dh6.05m) in damages after wrongly claiming that his company had deceived Middle East property investors. But the paper will ignore the judgment handed down by the High Court in London, its editor has been reported as saying.

Dubai-based Gulf News - which is owned by Al Nisr Publishing Ltd - said in a report in April last year that Mark Emlick, head of Strategic Property Investment Group, had absconded with investors' money. After the High Court judgment last week, Mr Emlick, 46, told The Scotsman newspaper: "This judgment has allowed me to uphold a business reputation which I have built up over the last 25 years. "Anyone in business will tell you that your reputation is your most important asset, so to have that called into question was deeply concerning. I'm fortunate that I was able to bring a case to the High Court, but there are many people who would have been left high and dry, with their reputation in tatters."

He added: "This has been a complicated case that has taken a significant amount of time and effort to bring to court, but ever since the allegations were printed I have been determined to seek justice." The article was printed on April 25 last year and referred to a deal concerning properties in Jumeirah Village South in which Strategic Property Investment Group had an interest. Mr Emlick is also founder and chairman of Edinburgh-based Dunedin Independent, one of Scotland's largest independent financial advisers.

Reporting on the court proceedings, The Scotsman newspaper said that because the Gulf News article could be read via the internet in the UK, the High Court accepted that the allegation had damaged the company's UK business and defamed Mr Emlick. Mr Emlick told The Scotsman: "This case brings into stark focus the power the internet can have on both personal and corporate reputations. The nature of services such as Google means that within hours of the coverage appearing online, it could be read by people back in the UK. Despite this year-long nightmare, this has not soured my appreciation and admiration for Dubai - a city which is rich in opportunities and actively promoting investment."

Yesterday, Maktoob Business quoted the Gulf News editor as saying the paper would not pay. "We will not be paying it," said Abdul Hamid Hamad."We are not going to appeal. We decided from the outset that we would not defend ourselves in this case. "We respect any court in the world, but this decision was not made in the UAE and therefore we will not honour its decisions." Mr Hamad asserted that the newspaper had offered Mr Emlick a chance to reply to the allegations.

Dunedin Independent, founded in 1994 in Edinburgh, is believed to be Scotland's largest privately owned independent financial adviser. The company says on its website that it is the 89th largest financial adviser in the UK. Its wealth management division controls in excess of £400 million in client funds. Yesterday, the company's managing director, Yuill Irvine, declined to comment to The National on the case.

@Email:mswan@thenational.ae