The World’s Richest Libel Tourist

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by Joshua Foust on 5/16/2011 · 7 comments

Alisher Usmanov, the wealthy Uzbek-Russian steel and telecom magnate, is making waves again. He first came to the world’s attention for trying to censor Craig Murray’s quite appropriate criticism of his viciousness as a business oligarch in 2007. It was a classic example of abusing the UK’s very loosey-goosey libel laws. Then, in 2009, Usmanov bought a substantial share in Facebook. By 2010 he was one of the world’s richest men (and this year was ranked #35).

Last month, Usmanov decided to try to increase his stake in the soccer/football team Arsenal. While that’s probably not worth noting all on its own, it IS worth noting that Usmanov was just ranked the second wealthiest person residing in the UK, just after Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and just above fellow oligarch Roman Ambramovich. The top three wealthiest men in the UK are foreigners, in other words.

While we ponder how it is that a man from one of the world’s most dysfunctional countries is also one of its wealthiest, we should keep in mind that wealthy Uzbeks like Alisher Usmanov and Lola Karimova-Tillyeva have made global asses of themselves through their relentless internet libel tourism: first with Usmanov’s injunction against Murray’s website and this year with Lola’s suing a French website for calling Uzbekistan what it very obviously is: a dictatorship.

Coming up next week, a French court is set to rule whether Islom Karimov, the vicious thug who rules one of the world’s least free countries, is really a dictator or not. Because one of his children threw a temper tantrum over dear old daddy being described accurately on the Internet.

It is a surreal world we live in. But no matter how obnoxious Lola Karimova-Tillyeva is, with her Frenchified libel tourism, she still can’t hold a candle to dear old Usmamov, either in terms of wealth or global commercial dominance. Uzbeks all the way.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Sanjuana Gabriela Enriquez Galvan May 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Countries need to clamp down on libel tourism –

BTW El Blablazo: I got a facebook now 🙂 –

Metin May 18, 2011 at 8:45 am

Alisher Usmanov is a citizen of Russia, a country far from dysfunctional. Nothing wrong in being a billioner and of uzbek ethnicity at the same time. Nothing wrong in trying to defend own reputation against defamation either. Let the courts decide whether Craig Murry’s ‘criticism’ is ‘appropriate’ or not.

Joshua Foust May 18, 2011 at 8:48 am

Alisher Usmanov was born in Uzbekistan and was a citizen of Uzbekistan until he became a naturalized Russian citizen later. You’re right, there’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s be real: none of the “charges” against Usmanov are defamation. Murray doesn’t have the same resources a bully like Usmanov has, so Murray couldn’t fight the army of lawyers Usmanov deployed to silence a critic. There’s nothing to defend here.

Metin May 18, 2011 at 9:20 am

I doubt he ever had citizenship of Uzbekistan; there was no such thing as uzbek citizenship till breakup of Soviet Union.
I am no lawyer to say whether charges are defamation or not. But what would you do if you’d be in place of that wealthy man? I think his reaction is rational and justified.

Joshua Foust May 18, 2011 at 9:38 am

Metin, Usmanov was born in Chust, Uzbekistan. He gained Russian citizenship later. It’s really not that hard. As for the defamation charge, Usmanov filed multiple injuctive charges Murray. They were clearly abusive, and that case in particular sparked a national scandal in the UK about how rich people were abusing libel laws to silence critics.

Yes yes, poor little defenseless Usmanov. How terrible for him that someone said something bad about him on the Internet. May 19, 2011 at 2:42 am

The sad thing is that we will soon be cuddling up to these dictators as we sell them all sorts of stuff. Then in 5 years along with other countries we will be condeming them, and /or invading them in the name of democracy

Prithvi May 19, 2011 at 9:38 pm

It says a lot about this site that even spammers have strong views on political life in Central Asia.

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