Billionaire Philanthropist is Suing US for Leaking to the Media False Information Linking Him to Terrorist Organization
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Gilbert Chagoury today responded to the US Government’s motion to dismiss the complaint he filed in September 2016 in US District Court for the District of Columbia. Mr. Chagoury’s lawsuit charged the United States Government with leaking false information to the media, causing great damage to his reputation and property, and denying his Constitutional right to due process. The US government’s motion to dismiss was filed with the court Wednesday, April 5, 2017.
“The government’s illegal leak caused great harm to Mr. Chagoury’s reputation, property and business interests,” said Stewart Baker of Steptoe and Johnson, LLP, attorney for Mr. Chagoury. “Taking the government to court is already helping to undo some of that harm.” The government’s motion admits that unauthorized leaks like the release of Mr. Chagoury’s information are improper and a violation of law.
The government admits at several points in its motion that Mr. Chagoury has not been placed on any Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) or OFAC sanctions lists, the usual sanction for individuals linked to terrorism. It also insists that it is not trying to prevent banks or other institutions from doing business with Mr. Chagoury. For example, the government’s motion at page 15 states that Mr. Chagoury “was not and never has been on the SDN list.” It goes on to argue that Chagoury’s complaint is not litigable because it is “undisputed that plaintiff was never placed on the SDN List or any other OFAC sanctions list.” While Chagoury and his counsel welcome the government’s admission that he is not on any official US Government lists linking him to terrorism, they reject the government’s arguments.
“It’s a shame that I have had to sue the US Government in order to get them to admit that it has never imposed terrorism sanctions on me and that its unauthorized leaks to the media violated the law,” said Chagoury. “But even with this welcome admission by the US government, the fact remains that severe damage has been caused to me and my family by the illegal leaks of false information. American justice demands due process, yet I still have been given no explanation for having my reputation dragged through the mud and no opportunity to rebut these falsehoods. That is not the America I know and love. I deserve my day in court in order to clear my good name.”
As the original complaint makes clear, despite his well-known love of the United States and his numerous, generous charitable contributions over 35 years of visiting America, Gilbert Chagoury was denied a visa by the United States Department of State in 2015. This decision was based on false information. This injustice was compounded when anonymous employees of the US Government leaked information to the media about the denial of Mr. Chagoury’s visa application, including the false information that led to the visa denial. Because Gilbert Chagoury is a successful businessman, an influential advocate for religious freedom, a global philanthropist and a friend of prominent political leaders including many here in the United States, the LA Times published the story.
In its just filed motion to dismiss, the government acknowledges that, “Unauthorized government leaks violate the law and are subject to criminal prosecution.” At the same time, the government argues that it cannot be held responsible for the damage done to Mr. Chagoury’s reputation and property because financial institutions would not have faced any government imposed sanctions.
“The government claims that because Mr. Chagoury is not on any government lists linking him to terrorism, the financial institutions that ceased doing business with him were under no legal requirement to do so,” said Baker. “That argument rings hollow. Bankers read the newspapers and watch television. Mr. Chagoury’s reputation was publicly smeared and his business and property interests damaged through outrageous, illegal leaks by anonymous government officials who knew exactly what they were doing.”
The intentional leak to the media of false information about Mr. Chagoury repeats a similarly unlawful incident from 2010, when he was wrongly placed on the no-fly list, without notice or opportunity to be heard, and his placement on the no-fly list was leaked to the media. When challenged with facts, the U.S. Government reversed that decision and formally apologized.
It should be noted that Chagoury had to amend his original 2016 complaint and withdraw the Judicial Redress Act motion after the US Department of Justice, in the wake of the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the EU, would not certify that British citizens such as Mr. Chagoury have standing under the Act (even though the law was enacted before the UK voted to exit the EU). While US citizens have long been protected by the Privacy Act, until recently, foreign nationals have not had recourse under that statute when their privacy has been violated by the US Government. The Judicial Redress Act extends those Privacy Act protections to citizens of European countries to sue the United States for unlawful disclosure of personal information under the terms of the Privacy Act.
CONTACT: Mark Corallo
Corallo Media Strategies, Inc.