Former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns has won a libel action against Lalit Modi in London that leaves the one-time chairman of the Indian Premier League (IPL) facing a bill of more than £500,000 ($794,000).
In the first libel action heard in England against a post on Twitter, Cairns, 41, was awarded £90,000 damages after Judge David Bean dismissed fixing allegations levelled against the former all-rounder by Modi.
Meanwhile, Modi was also ordered to pay an additional £400,000 on account of Cairns’s costs to his solicitors within 28 days.
The figures do not include Modi’s own legal costs.
Bean granted Modi permission to appeal over the amount of damages but refused permission on the issue of liability, although Modi’s lawyers are set to go to the Court of Appeal directly on that point.
Cairns sued over an “unequivocal allegation” of match-fixing on Modi’s Twitter account on the micro-blogging site in January 2010.
Bean said Modi had “singularly failed” to provide any reliable evidence Cairns was involved in match-fixing or spot-fixing.
Cairns, not in court on Monday, 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.”
He added: “Lastly, I feel great relief that I am able to walk into any cricket ground in the world with my head held high.”
Bean rejected claims by Modi’s lawyers that the case was an example of ‘libel tourism’, as Cairns had been educated in England and had also played county cricket while Modi — who did not give evidence during the eight-day trial — had been resident in England since mid-2010.
Bean also rejected a claim by Modi’s barrister, Ronald Thwaites, that Cairns had given “incredible evidence”.
“Despite prolonged, searching and occasionally intrusive questioning about his sporting, financial and personal life, he emerged essentially unscathed,” Bean said.
The judge said evidence given by cricketers Gaurav Gupta, Rajesh Sharma and Tejinder Pal Singh was not to be believed and hearsay evidence from Amit Uniyal and Love Ablish was inconsistent and unreliable, while that of Karanveer Singh fell well short of sustaining Modi’s case.
According to Bean, Modi’s lawyers had launched a “sustained and aggressive” attack on Cairns, which must be taken to have been made on his instructions.
In Thwaites’s closing speech to the court, the words “liar”, “lie” and “lies” were used 24 times.
To reflect that, the judge increased the damages by about 20 percent, £75,000 to £90,000.
The court had heard that Modi’s tweet was picked up by leading cricket website Cricinfo.
But while they withdrew their report following a complaint by Cairns, Modi refused to apologise and insisted the charge was true.
Cairns was adamant it was “wholly untrue” and claimed it could undo all he had achieved in a 20-year career where, despite being plagued by injuries, he scored over 3,000 runs and took more than 200 wickets in Test cricket.
The court was told that, in 2007 and 2008, Cairns captained the Chandigarh Lions in three competitions in the Indian Cricket League (ICL), which flourished briefly before the rise of the IPL, a lucrative domestic Twenty20 competition featuring many of the world’s leading players.
The allegation made by Modi related to the second and third of these competitions, between March and April 2008 and October and November of that year.
But Cairns’s barrister, Andrew Caldecott, told the court that in October 2008 his client was called to an ICL directors meeting at a hotel where, according to the cricketer, his denial of rumours of his alleged involvement in match-fixing appeared to be accepted.