Gallery of Shame

A sitting judge using the courtroom to silence his critics.
An energy company threatening 60 NGOs and activists on the back of one spurious lawsuit.
A state-owned TV company filing a wave of defamation lawsuits – against its own employees.


So how do they get away with it? Well it’s easy to insulate yourself from shame if you have the money, and it’s easy to disguise a SLAPP as a genuine lawsuit if you have a team of fancy lawyers.

It’s time, therefore, to reclaim the shame. It’s time to strip away the facade of legal respectability and expose the aggressive bully tactics underneath. It’s time to show the faces of some of the worst legal bullies in Europe.

Welcome to the Gallery of Shame

Roman Abramovich

Russian oligarch and politician Roman Abramovich filed a civil defamation lawsuit in March 2021 through Harbottle & Lewis LLP against Catherine Belton, journalist and author of the book Putin’s People, and HarperCollins, publisher of the said book. The lawsuit concerns statements in “Putin’s People”, which he claimed were untrue or inaccurate. A settlement between the plaintiff and defendants was reached to amend the book and correct false claims. Had the libel trial gone ahead in the high court, the legal bill was likely to have exceeded £10 million.

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Oleg Deripaska

The Russian billionaire and industrialist launched a legal attack against a number of journalists and activists this summer following the publication of an investigation that alleged, among other things, that Deripaska gave bribes to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The lawsuit targeted, among others, Alexei Navalny and the UK-based DMG Media company, and demanded – among other things – that Navalny remove from the Internet a photo of Deripaska and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. 

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Stanko Subotić

A Serbian businessman, Subotić filed a large-scale civil defamation lawsuit in Geneva in January 2021 against the media outlet Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the OCCRP publisher Drew Sullivan and Dragana Péco, a journalist of Serbian media partner KRIK, demanding 155,000 Swiss francs in damages – two years after the publication of an article. Subotic has record of SLAPPs: a previous case in the UK against Ratkno Knezevic was dismissed as an abuse of process in 2013.

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Svante Kumlin

Domiciled in Monaco, Kumlin filed a civil lawsuit alleging defamation and breach of an NDA against Swedish news website Realtid, who had been investigating Kumlin’s group of companies, Eco Energy World (EEW). The journalists contacted Kumlin numerous times prior to- and after publishing the report. Kumlin’s sole reply was that his legal counsel “will respond to [them] directly”, followed by several emails and attached letters from law firms in the UK and Monaco. The defamation claim reportedly totalled a whopping €15.3 million.

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The Kingdom of Morocco

In 2021, the Kingdom of Morocco filed civil defamation lawsuits as well as an injunction and a slander lawsuit in French, German, and Spanish courts against several NGOs, newspapers, radio broadcasters and individual journalists and reporters after they published investigative work alleging that the Moroccan administration used Pegasus spyware to spy on the mobile phones of politicians, journalists and activists.

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Süleyman Soylu

Turkey has become notorious for threatening and silencing journalists in recent times, and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has a good claim to being one of the worst offenders. A €100,000 lawsuit SLAPP-ed onto Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet in 2021 was just the cherry on the cake – Soylu has an extensive history of eyebrow-raising tricks when it comes to silencing.

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Grigoris Dimitriadis

Dimitriadis, the then-Secretary General to the prime minister (as well as his nephew) is on our radar this year after filing expensive lawsuits against Reporters United, Efimerida ton Syntakton (EfSyn), and three journalists, after media stories were published about allegedly illegal practices by the government.

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Mary Lou McDonald

Mcdonald is not new to the SLAPP scene. However, April 2022 cemented the President of Sinn Féin’s reputation as a SLAPP politician after she filed her third defamation case in the High Court. This time, the victim is the Irish public service broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), SLAPP-ed with a case amounting to some €160,000.

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Kelkos Energy

Kelkos Energy is a Hydroelectric Power Generation company, which filed two separate lawsuits against two well-known environmental activists for speaking out about the damage caused to the surrounding environment. The lawsuits asked for €10,000 and €100,000 in damages and created – with the help of a letter sent to 60 NGOs and activists warning them about the lawsuit – a chilling effect on activists and citizens in the area.

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Valle de Odieta S.C.L.

The company Valle de Odieta S.C.L owns what may be Spain’s largest industrial cow farm in the North of Spain. Now it’s behind a gigantic factory farm project that’s planned to be built in the small town of Noviercas. The company filed a defamation lawsuit in March 2022 against Greenpeace Spain and its head, as well as 13 other NGOs after the groups delivered a report to the Parliament of Navarra on the company’s environmental practices.

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Taylor Wessing LLP (UK)

Taylor Wessing LLP is a UK law firm located in London, whose notoriety in facilitating SLAPPs and acts of legal intimidation against public participants – particularly journalists and publishing companies – reached new heights this year. In 2021, they represented various Russian and Kazakh oligarchs in expensive legal actions against e.g.  the Financial Times and journalist Tom Burgis. More recently, they issued legal threats to newsrooms across Britain on behalf of UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’ Chief of Staff, Mark Fullbrook.

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Judge Zvonko Vrban

Vrban is the President of the County Court in Osijek. He is one of the most powerful judges in Croatia as he presides over one of the largest courts in the country. He has filed six civil lawsuits in less than two years against Telegram, its editor in chief Jelena Valentić, and Drago Hedl, the award-winning Croatian journalist and author of articles investigating suspected ethical misconduct on the part of the judge. The total amount sought in the complaints is around €120,000 in damages.

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Walter Damen

Damen is a Belgian lawyer, who has filed multiple lawsuits against the news site Apache on behalf of his client, Erik van der Paal, a project developer. Apache was hit with several proceedings on grounds of civil defamation and breach of reputation as well as for stalking and invasion of privacy under criminal law. All civil actions against Apache were dismissed and in a criminal case (the journalists of) Apache were acquitted. The Antwerp Court of Appeal ultimately found the legal action against Apache to have been an abuse of process as it had been pursued “with the intention of (financially) exhausting the defendants into silence”.

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