Exclusive: Daily Post faces massive libel case

IRIRIKI Island Resort and the Jewel Casino are suing the Daily Post newspaper for VT245 million in one of the biggest civil libel cases in Vanuatu’s history.

The alleged libel was in an article in the Post’s supplement known as ‘Vanuatu Business Review’ in a Saturday edition of the Post in June and it was also published online.

The article had the headline ‘A Buyer’s Market’ and it also contained a picture of Iririki Island Resort. The writer’s name was not included.

Iririki Island Resort and Jewel Casino counsel Dane Thornburgh of Thornburgh Lawyers claimed in the writ that the article contained four defamatory imputations by way of libel.

The article referred to ‘a legal drama’ the week before the article was published. In the writ it is claimed that the legal drama as published and the imputations flowing from same were misleading and defamatory and in truth, same was ‘based on a disbuted debt, cross claim and criminal proceedings against the other party’.

“The claimant (Iririki Island Resort) did not allow itself to languish in a pit of debt,” said the writ.

“The owners did not turn down a fairly attractive acquisition offer that promised to wipe the slate clean, offering at least the consolation of a graceful exit for the owners or otherwise.

“The company did not die from a single cut, or rather from a series, unavoidable or self inflicted, or at all.

“The claimants were good managers of the resort with a substantial and experienced management team employed to operate the resort.

“The claimants were not languishing in a pit of debt at all.

“The resort was not near failure.”

The writ also claimed that the imputations flowing from the newspaper report were misleading and defamatory in relation to the second claimant, which is the Jewel Casino located on Iririki Island.

“The second claimant is not involved in any legal dramas last week or otherwise,” the writ said.

Mr Thornburgh said in the document that has been tendered in court that the article caused ‘loss of bookings, loss of reputation, loss of income, loss of opportunity and loss of value for resale to prospective purchasers’.

He said in the writ that Iririki’s claims for damages are for ‘no less than VT50million for loss of future income, loss of potential sale price and value of no less than VT100 million and punitive damages of no less than VT10 million plus costs’.

The damages claimed for the Jewel Casino are ‘no less than VT25million for loss of future income, loss of the potential sale price and value of no less than VT50 million and punitive damages of no less than VT10 million’.

This comes to a total sum of VT245 million being sought.

It is not known when the case will be heard.

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