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BIN MAHFOUZ LIBEL RULINGS BOOST SAUDI CONFIDENCE
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BIN MAHFOUZ LIBEL RULINGS BOOST SAUDI CONFIDENCE
http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=87404&d=29&m=10&y=2006
Siraj Wahab

JEDDAH, 29 October 2006 — UK and Swiss court decisions asserting that banker Khalid Bin Mahfouz was libeled by authors who accused him of funneling money to Al-Qaeda in a 2001 book have restored confidence of Saudi businessmen in European justice.

Khalid Bin Mahfouz received an unqualified apology and substantial damages from Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie who alleged in their book, “The Forbidden Truth,” that he had funded Al-Qaeda. The book is now set to be withdrawn from sale worldwide.

“Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, Saudi and Muslim businessmen have been under intense attack from upstart Western writers who, passing themselves off as international terrorism financing experts, have been dishing out all kinds of nonsense in the name of journalism. This verdict will serve as a kind of deterrent to would-be mudslingers and character-assassins,” said an ecstatic Jeddah-based businessman. “We can fight back and we should.”

Some businessmen interviewed yesterday by Arab News said Saudis usually avoid going to court for fear of inviting negative publicity — even when grave allegations are leveled against them. The perception is that court proceedings can be lengthy and invite the scrutiny of the media, which often is prone to mudslinging. In such cases truth becomes the first casualty.

“This ruling is extremely important in the sense that it has restored our faith in the rule of law and that in the West authors are after all accountable,” said another Jeddah businessman. “Both Brisard and Dasquie may have earned millions when they first published their allegations, but now their reputations are in tatters and surely they must have lost those millions.”

According to a statement e-mailed to newspapers by the London-based law firm of Kendall Freeman, judges in the UK and Switzerland found that in the book Brisard and Dasquie had defamed Khalid Bin Mahfouz and his son, Abdul Rahman Bin Mahfouz. Upon publication, the book received huge publicity and rave reviews. Brisard published additional allegations in a 2002 report, “Terrorism Financing,” which he submitted to the United Nations.

“The book and the report contain very serious and highly defamatory allegations about Khalid Bin Mahfouz and Abdul Rahman Bin Mahfouz, alleging support for terrorism through their businesses, families and charities and directly,” the authors said in a written apology to the Bin Mahfouz family. “As a result of what we now know, we accept and acknowledge that all of those allegations about you and your families, businesses and charities are entirely and manifestly false.”

They said nothing new substantiates the allegations since the publication of the book and the report. “We, therefore, now unreservedly withdraw all of the allegations about you, both in the book and the report and confirm that we will never repeat them,” the authors wrote.

Brisard and Dasquie also agreed to the publication of the apology on their blogs (http://jcb.blogs.com/) and in a number of newspapers and publications around the world. More importantly, the two have agreed to arrange for the 2001-2002 bestseller to be withdrawn from sale.

This is perhaps the first time that a non-fiction book has been withdrawn from sale because of falsehoods. In the past, works of fiction have been withdrawn frequently for reasons of plagiarism. Most recently, a teen novel was pulled from the market after author Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard University sophomore, acknowledged that numerous passages in “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life” were lifted from another writer.

The two authors of the Bin-Mahfouz book have also agreed to pay an unspecified amount of damages to the Saudi businessmen which the businessmen will donate to UNICEF.

Khalid Bin Mahfouz was formerly the chairman of the National Commercial Bank (NCB), which his father, Salem Bin Mahfouz, founded in the 1950s. Salem Bin Mahfouz was a Saudi entrepreneur who rose from being a smalltime moneychanger to becoming the founder of the leading Saudi bank.

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