Aleksej Gubarev, A Russian tech executive suing BuzzFeed News over the Steele dossier, looks to reap a windfall as the indictment against 12 Russian government officials proves that his companies were never involved in the hacking. He looks to get huge paydays from the website’s editor, Ben Smith, and dossier author Christopher Steele.
The dossier claimed that Gubarev’s companies Webzilla and XBT Holding did the actual hacking after being pressured by the Kremlin. Neither company is named in the indictment of the hackers. Gubarev said in his filing that neither BuzzFeed, it’s editor Ben Smith or Christopher Steele even tried to verify the dossier.
Steele also alleges in the dossier that Gubarev was “recruited under duress” by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB.
“When Ben Smith and BuzzFeed decided to publish the Dossier, they knew that they had been unable to verify any of the allegations in it,” Evan Fray-Witzer, a lawyer for Gubarev, said in a statement.
“They knew that falsely accusing people of serious criminal activity could ruin lives, but they decided that getting traffic to their website was more important than the truth. It was all about clicks and dollars for them. Nothing else mattered.”
Gubarev is scheduled to go to court with BuzzFeed in November unless a settlement is reached or the federal judge handling the case intervenes. The executives lawyers deposed Steele in London on June 18. They are attempting to depose executives with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele.
Ben Smith and BuzzFeed have until November to reach a settlement with Gubarev, or else they will have to go to trial. Given that the government has fingered others as the hackers, the case should be fairly cut and dried. If so, look for BuzzFeed to try to make a quiet settlement. Steele has already been deposed and will face a lawsuit filed by Gubarev in the near future.