A London judge on Wednesday ordered ex-British spy Christopher Steele’s intelligence firm to pay damages to two Russian bankers, ruling that Steele had falsely reported in his 2016 dossier on President Trump that the pair had arranged payoffs to Vladimir Putin during the 1990s.
Justice Mark Warby ruled that Steele “failed to take reasonable steps” to verify the allegation, which was false, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Warby ordered Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., Steele’s company, to pay $23,000 to each of the two bankers.
In the dossier, much of which was subsequently discredited, Steele alleged that the billionaires Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman — both on the supervisory board of the Russian financial conglomerate Alfa Group, had facilitated delivery of “large amounts of illicit cash” to Putin when he was a deputy mayor in St. Petersburg.
Steele wrote that the purported payments were part of a long business relationship between Putin and the bankers, who continued to do “significant favors,” The Journal reported.
Steele, who was first hired by a conservative group to do research on Trump but was later paid by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has said that he compiled the dossier and shared it with only a small group of people, and never planned for it to be published, which BuzzFeed subsequently did.
The dossier formed the basis for the “Russian collusion” investigation.
Fridman called hailed the ruling.
“Ever since these odious allegations were first made public in January 2017, my partners and I have been resolute and unwavering in our determination to prove that they are untrue,” he said in a statement. “Through this case, we have finally succeeded in doing so.”
In a statement Orbis said it would “ensure that our company’s data handling procedures incorporate” the judge’s findings.
Trump has repeatedly called the dossier “fake” and “a hoax” and has denied collusion with Russia by his campaign.