Chris Cairns wins libel case against Lalit Modi

MATT APPLEBY IN LONDON
Last updated 12:00 27/03/2012
An angry Cairns had to be restrained by one of his legal team when Modi's counsel announced that exiled Indian entrepreneur Modi would not defend himself.
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BATTLE WON: Chris Cairns and his wife outside the High Court in London while the case was heard. Cairns was awarded £90,000 (NZ$174,000) in damages by Justice David Bean.

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Chris Cairns is ready to move on after two years fighting to clear his name over unfounded match fixing allegations.

The former New Zealand cricketer won his libel case -and £90,000 (NZ$174,000) damages - against Indian Premier League founder Lalit Modi over a Twitter message in 2010 and a subsequent report by website Cricinfo that Cairns had fixed matches in the 2008 Indian Cricket League tournament.

Neither Cairns nor Modi were at London's High Court for Mr Justice Bean's verdict but Cairns' solicitor Rhory Robertson said that his client wanted the world to know that "he is delighted at what has happened. He can now for the first time in two years walk into any cricket ground around they world with his reputation unsullied and intact."

It emerged in court that Modi had offered Cairns £75,000 (NZ$145,000) damages last April but Cairns rejected that and requested a role as a coach in the Indian Premier League or a satellite tournament in Sri Lanka or Australia instead.

Justice Bean said: "I'm satisfied Mr Cairns was justified in coming to trial to get the vindication which he has sought."

He also ruled that Cairns' legal team be paid £400,000 (NZ$774,000) costs by Modi within 28 days. Modi's legal fees are estimated at over £1 million (NZ$1.9m).

In a brief statement, Modi said: "I have received the judgement and I am immediately considering an appeal with my legal team. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment any further at this time."

He has until April 20 to lodge an appeal.

Modi's legal team had argued that the allegation was true but Justice Bean rejected Modi's defence of justification and ruled that he had "singularly failed to provide any reliable evidence that Mr Cairns was involved in match fixing or spot fixing or even that there were strong grounds for suspicion he was".

Justice Bean added that many of Cairns' team mates who accused him "had an obvious incentive to put forward by way of mitigation that they were only obeying orders, or at least giving into pressure from their charismatic captain".

Bean said evidence from Gaurav Gupta, TP Singh and Rajesh Sharma was "not to be believed", while the "hearsay" evidence of Uniyal and Ablish was "inconsistent and unreliable".

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The judge also said he was "not impressed" with evidence given by Howard Beer, the former ICL anti-corruption officer who conducted the investigation into allegations of fixing, criticising the Australian former police officer's conduct as "partisan to the point of being unprofessional".

He said Modi's QC Ronald Thwaites made a "sustained and aggressive" attack on Cairns.

He said: "It is obvious that an allegation that a professional cricketer is a match-fixer goes to the core attributes of his personality and, if true, entirely destroys his reputation for integrity."

Robertson added, referring to case being the first Twitter libel: "I think Twitter makes a big difference because the whole point about Twitter is it goes round and that's the danger, particularly when it's a professional sportsman. Everybody who's interested in cricket is going to know what he said and hopefully everybody who is interested in cricket will know what the result has been today.

"I hope the message has come out loud and clear that people cannot go around making the sort of scurrilous allegations that Mr Modi made without realising that you're going to run into danger if you do that without any justification at all."

Cairns said in a statement: "Today's verdict lifts a dark cloud that has been over me for the past two years. I feel mixed emotions.

"Firstly sadness that I should ever have had to put myself, my friends and my family through this because of one man's misdirected allegations. But I also feel great joy because my past career has come through unscathed and remains intact and because I had the courage to stand up in the highest court to defend my name.

"I would like to thank my friends and family for their constant messages of support. To my wife Mel who has provided me with the strength to deal day-to-day with this case and particular thanks to Andrew Caldecott who fronted my cause.

"Lastly I feel great relief that I am able to walk into any cricket ground with my head held high."

Cairns' manager Andrew Fitch-Holland said: "he's obviously incredibly happy with the result. It's been. A very, very difficult two years for him and his family and everyone who cares about him. Today his reputation has been restored as it should have been all along.

"He never regretted it he never thought he had a choice. He had to clear his name it is vitally important that his record stands. It's a tribute to his personal commitment that be took it on. At the time this started Mr Modi was probably rightfully seen as the most powerful man in world cricket. Chris Cairns stood up to him.

"We're delighted the judgement has been so quick. It does mean the vindication is clear. I have no doubt that in time Chris will receive the compensation that is due. Chris Cairns stood up and has been judged on his words. After almost eight hours cross-examination his reputation emerged unscathed."

He added: "The way on which the case was put has set led to increase the amount of damages."

Thwaites said he may seek leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal.

- Fairfax Media

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