Court Throws Out Commodity Trader Defamation Case Against Ngos

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) A Swiss court has cleared two Swiss NGOs of defamation following the publication of a damning report into Zug-based commodities trader Kolmar Group.

This content was published on February 21, 2024 - 16:34 3 minutes Keystone-SDA

The non-governmental organisations Public Eye and Trial International had accused Kolmar of engaging with the business of smuggled oil from Libya.

The regional court handed down its verdict on Wednesday, as announced by the two organisations and Amnesty International. Amnesty International commented that the judgement was an important step against intimidation lawsuits to protect freedom of expression. The Kolmar Group has announced that it will appeal to the High Court.

+ Switzerland opens criminal inquiry into alleged Libyan oil smuggling

According to Public Eye and Trial International, the regional court recognised the credibility of the report on the company's trade in smuggled diesel from the civil war country of Libya. According to the two organisations, the court also found that the report was in the public interest.

This confirms that the publication of inconvenient facts is not a criminal offence, but a pillar of democracy. However, the judgement does not yet mean that the action for damages brought by the commodities trader Kolmar Group in the amount of CHF1.8 million is off the table.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has also opened criminal proceedings following a complaint by Public Eye and Trial International. It concerns the suspicion of war crimes through looting. The OAG is investigating unknown persons.

The Kolmar Group announced that the“false allegations” had caused great damage to its reputation. In the run-up to the vote on the Responsible Business Initiative, it was more important to the authors in March 2020 to publish a political rather than a factual report in accordance with journalistic principles.

The allegations in the report were defamatory, which the regional court recognised. The acquittal was based solely on proof of good faith.

According to the NGOs and their criminal complaint to the OAG, Kolmar in Malta allegedly bought looted diesel in Libya. This involved subsidised diesel, which gunmen diverted from state refineries.

Fishing boats smuggled the diesel into international waters, where it was loaded onto waiting ships. The ships transported the fuel to Malta. As a result, Kolmar is said to have purchased over 50,000 tonnes of the diesel stored there in 2014 and 2015.

In addition to the complaint from the non-governmental organisations, the OAG received information from the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) between May and June 2020 that coincided with that of the organisations.

Translated from German by DeepL/mga

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