Chairman of Oriental Fine Arts Academy of London wins libel claim over embezzlement/corruption slurs

Selvaratnam Suresh, an honorary chairman, trustee and co-founder of the Oriental Fine Arts Academy of London (‘OFAAL’) has succeeded in his libel claim against Abdul Samad, Amirthalingam Nagarajah and Kajananan Sathananthan, after the defendants agreed to retract their allegations, apologise and pay compensation and costs.  The first two defendants are parents of pupils at the West London Tamil School.  The third defendant is a former pupil and the president of the school’s alumni association.

The libel claim concerned a video-ed interview involving the first two defendants which was published on You Tube and Facebook by the third defendant.  In the videos, watched by several thousand people, a number of defamatory statements were made agains Mr Suresh, including that he had:-

(1) defrauded OFAAL of some £23,000 of the charity’s money by writing a cheque to a non-existent, dissolved company;

(2) defrauded OFAAL of some £480,000 of the charity’s money, spending it on himself;

(3) refused to answer legitimate questions about his misconduct; and

(4) engaged in nepotism, by appointing cronies, to help him avoid scrutiny.

At previous hearings Mr Justice Warby had found that the defendants had no real prospect of proving the statements were true.  The judge had also found that there was no real prospect of any public interest or honest opinion defence succeeding.  Furthermore, a police investigation had apparently concluded there was no evidence to support the allegations.

On 4 December 2017 the parties’ representatives appeared in the High Court to make a joint statement, in which the defendants acknowledged that the allegations were untrue, retracted them and apologised for the reputational damage and distress caused.  The defendants agreed to pay the claimant’s legal costs and to each make a donation of £1,000 to Tamil Aid.


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