A Russian businessman linked to a US Democratic Party “hacking incident” in a former British spy’s 2016 dossier about alleged links between Donald Trump and Russia has told a judge that he suffers from “on-going anxiety”.
Aleksej Gubarev, who runs an IT infrastructure solutions business, told Mr Justice Warby that he was “stunned” to learn that he featured in Christopher Steele’s dossier.
Mr Gubarev said he had never been involved with Russian Federal Security Services or any cyber-attacks on the US Democratic Party.
He was giving evidence at a High Court trial in London today after suing Mr Steele for defamation.
Mr Gubarev, and a company he runs called Webzilla, took legal action after BuzzFeed published the “Steele Dossier” in January 2017, the month Mr Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States.
He says he has been defamed by Mr Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based corporate intelligence consultancy co-founded by Mr Steele.
Orbis and Mr Steele are fighting the claim and deny defamation allegations.
Mr Gubarev, who lives in Cyprus, said he was receiving “multiple messages and phone calls” within minutes of the BuzzFeed article being published.
“When I read and saw that my name and companies were being accused, I was stunned,” he said, in a written witness statement.
“I have never been involved with the Russian Federal Security Services or any cyber-attacks on the US Democratic Party.”
He said it was difficult to convince people that the allegations were false.
“The situation was, and remains, very humiliating and embarrassing which has caused me to suffer from on-going anxiety about how my reputation is now in tatters,” he said.
“It has been exhausting trying to constantly convince people that I was not involved in the Democratic Party hacking incident…”
He added: “I don’t want to have to keep explaining that I am not a criminal and did not do what I am alleged to have done.”
Mr Gubarev said Mr Steele had not apologised and that refusal prolonged the damage.
The dossier had been commissioned by a Washington DC consultancy acting for a law firm, the judge has heard.
He has been told that the “ultimate client” was the “Democratic National Committee and/or Hillary Clinton’s Presidential election campaign”.
Andrew Caldecott QC, who leads Mr Gubarev’s legal team, has told the judge that there is a “practical ceiling” of about £325,000 (€360k) on defamation damages awards.
He said he would not argue that an award at the “very top of the bracket” was appropriate.
But he said “very substantial damages” were required to vindicate and compensate Mr Gubarev.
Mr Caldecott said there was “no suggestion” that the allegations against Mr Gubarev and Webzilla were true.
He said BuzzFeed had apologised and “redacted” the names of Mr Gubarev and Webzilla from their website.
And, he said, Mr Gubarev was not suggesting that Orbis and Mr Steele had been “malicious”.
Mr Caldecott said the “central question” was whether Orbis and Mr Steele were “responsible in law” for the publication of the Steele dossier by BuzzFeed.
He said Mr Gubarev’s case was that they were.
Mr Steele disagrees and says the claim should be dismissed.
The hearing is due to end later this week