Businessman Dermot Desmond has questioned the use of Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz as an expert witness in a defamation case taken against The Irish Times.
Mr Desmond brought legal proceedings against the newspaper in July 2016 over an article published in April of that year relating to the so-called Panama papers. The businessman is seeking damages, alleging defamation, breach of privacy and breach of confidence.
The article was based on details within 11.5 million documents leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca that contained financial information about offshore tax entities.
The information was leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with The Irish Times and other media outlets around the world through the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The Irish Times is fully defending the action, pleading – among other defences – that the defamation element of the claim is protected by the Section 26 defence within the 2009 Defamation Act of “fair and reasonable publication,” the High Court was told on Wednesday.
Updating the court on the status of the proceedings at a brief hearing, Ray Ryan BL, counsel for the businessman, told Mr Justice Charles Meenan that The Irish Times had retained Mr Stiglitz to act as an expert in its defence as far back as late 2021 and that Mr Desmond’s side had “questioned that.”
Mr Ryan said Mr Desmond was looking for Mr Stiglitz’s expert report and that his side did not know what the economist was going to say to support the newspaper’s defence.
He said that Mr Stiglitz’s evidence “may well be inadmissible” and that there was “a danger of trial by ambush” if Mr Desmond’s side did not know what would be in the report in advance.
Mr Ryan told the court that his understanding was that The Irish Times did not yet have Mr Stiglitz’s report and that the newspaper was seeking to put the matter back to a date in May.
He asked the judge to direct The Irish Times to tell Mr Desmond and the court whether or not it was going to give the businessman’s legal team a copy of Mr Stiglitz’s report voluntarily.
John Maher BL, representing The Irish Times, told the judge that the newspaper’s position concerning Mr Stiglitz’s expert report would “crystallise” over the next month after it received the report and, on that basis, asked for the matter to be adjourned for a month.
Mr Justice Meenan put the case back for mention again on May 24th.