Peter Griffin, a retired engineer and businessman, has accepted an offer of £50,000 in libel damages from the Guardian newspaper over false allegations that he was involved in Libya’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme.
Peter Griffin and Guardian Newspapers Limited Press Release
3 May 2005
Peter Griffin, a retired production engineer and businessman has accepted a “very substantial ” offer from the Guardian newspaper of £50,000 in libel damages, the High Court was told today. In February 2004 the Guardian published an article under the headline “Britons “had key role in Libyan nuclear arms”” which alleged that Mr Griffin had been knowingly instrumental in setting up Libya’s illicit nuclear weapons programme. The Court was told by solicitors Carter-Ruck on behalf of Mr Griffin that the allegations were “completely false” and exposed Mr Griffin to highly damaging and distressing publicity. A full account of the statement read to the High Court this morning which contains the background to the litigation and the settlement is attached to this press release.
All enquiries to Nigel Tait of Carter-Ruck on 020 7353 5005.
Statement in Open Court
Peter Griffin and Guardian Newspapers Limited Statement in Open Court
Solicitor for Claimant
May it please your Lordship, I appear for the Claimant, Mr Peter Griffin.
Mr Griffin is a retired production engineer and businessman. Prior to his retirement, between June 2000 and August 2001, he ran a company called Gulf Technical Industries LLC Dubai (“GTI”). Before that he had had a long career in the engineering business. This statement is made to vindicate Mr Griffin’s reputation in relation to some very serious defamatory allegations against him published by Guardian Newspapers Limited.
On page 12 of The Guardian for Saturday 21st February 2004 on its ‘National news’ page under the headline “Britons ‘had key role in Libyan nuclear arms’” and the sub-headline “Malaysian police report implicates the Griffins” and at www.guardian.co.uk subsequently, the defendant Guardian Newspapers Limited published an article which was highly defamatory of Mr Griffin. In particular, The Guardian reported that a Malaysian police investigation report, based mainly on the interrogation of a Mr Buhary Seyed Abu Tahir, allegedly a significant “middle man” in the international black market for nuclear weapons technology, and briefings by British and US intelligence agents, had concluded that Mr Griffin had been knowingly instrumental in setting up Libya’s illicit nuclear weapons programme. The Guardian claimed that the Malaysian police had found Mr Griffin to have supplied nuclear weapons equipment and technology to Libya, helped arrange the training of technicians to set up a workshop in Libya to make centrifuge components for uranium enrichment and effected other procurement for that programme, including from the black market in nuclear weapons equipment. The Guardian further alleged the police report to claim that Mr Griffin set up a front company to buy nuclear engineering parts around the world, and helped an operation to make parts in a Malaysian factory for the multinational network run by Pakistan’s senior nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the now disgraced “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. The Guardian claimed also that Mr Griffin’s former company, GTI, had arranged many of the procurement deals. Yet further, The Guardian claimed that the Malaysian police had concluded that Mr Griffin had conspired with Mr Tahir to dupe an innocent Malaysian engineering company, Scomi Precision Engineering (Scope), into producing components unwittingly for the centrifuge unit for Libya’s uranium enrichment programme.
Mr Griffin now takes this opportunity to state publicly that these allegations were completely false. The Guardian’s article gravely injured his personal and professional reputations, exposed him to highly damaging and distressing publicity, and caused him hurt and embarrassment.
The Malaysian police, although they referred in their report to allegations against Mr Griffin made by Mr Tahir, made no findings of wrongdoing against Mr Griffin. By way of example only: the apparent conclusion appearing from The Guardian’s headline, “Britons ‘had key role in Libyan nuclear arms’” in fact appeared nowhere in the Malaysian police report; the Malaysian police report had not concluded that Mr Griffin had procured black market equipment for Libya’s nuclear weapons programme, either in conjunction with Dr Khan’s illicit network or otherwise; nor had the Malaysian police concluded that Mr Griffin had been involved in duping Scope (the alleged conspiracy was in fact reported by the Malaysian police to have been carried out by Mr Tahir in conjunction with a completely different individual other than Mr Griffin).
The Guardian’s article was extremely upsetting for Mr Griffin, who was hoping to enjoy a peaceful and happy retirement. The Guardian’s efforts to contact Mr Griffin before publication were unfortunately unsuccessful and he did not have the opportunity to comment on or refute the allegations against him. It is a matter of continuing regret to Mr Griffin that Guardian Newspapers Limited has chosen not to join in the making of this statement with him. He appreciates, however, that it cannot be compelled legally to do so.
Having complained to Guardian Newspapers Limited through his solicitors without result, Mr Griffin had no choice but to begin libel proceedings on 10th September 2004. The Guardian stood by the fairness and accuracy of its reporting vigorously, and claimed its article had been published responsibly and in the public interest. The Guardian refused to correct, retract or apologise for its allegations, and a three week trial beginning on 14th November 2005 was arranged.
On 17th March 2005 Guardian Newspapers Limited made a very substantial payment of £50,000 into court, without any admission as to liability, and offered to pay Mr Griffin his reasonable legal costs of the action. He has accepted that offer, and now takes the opportunity of reading this statement in open court in order to vindicate his reputation. He can record also that The Guardian has removed the offending article from its website. He understands it has no intention of repeating it or the allegations contained in it, whether on its website or in its newspapers.
The Guardian has declined to be present here today, but it has assured Mr Griffin that it will shortly publish a report of the outcome of his action and the making of this statement, in accordance with its obligations under the PCC Code.
Solicitors for the Claimant
International Press Centre
76 Shoe Lane
Tel: 020 7353 5005
Mr Griffin was represented by Nigel Tait.