After ten years of intensive campaigning, BMF and Lukas Straumann must defend their actions and their words in court. Even before attempting to do so, they reflexively label themselves victims and question the motives of those whose reputation they have attacked for years, claiming to be the targets of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). It is important to note that, in Canadian court proceedings in 2018, the judge specifically ruled that BMF was not a public interest litigant.
The law is clear: Neither SLAPP legislation nor Swiss law authorize defamation, which is at the heart of Sakto’s case against BMF and Lukas Straumann. The victim of defamation is entitled to seek assistance from the court – even if the defamer is an NGO.
Sakto files full Statement of Claim in civil proceedings aimed at putting an end to unsupported claims and allegations by Bruno Manser Fonds
October 20, 2019 - Ottawa
On 27 September 2019, Sakto has filed its full Statement of Claim with the Basel Civil Court in the proceedings against BMF and their Executive Director Lukas Straumann. The main proceedings have now definitely started.
BMF have, for years, run a campaign against Sakto and its executives, falsely blaming them of having committed criminal offences. According to BMF's allegations, it is an established fact that Sakto and its executives are involved in corruption and money laundering and form part of a criminal organization.
By making aggressive use of social media, multiple websites, and blogs, BMF have created the impression that these allegations are valid and widely accepted.
May 23, 2019 - Ottawa
Sakto Corporation (‘Sakto’), a mid-size Canadian real estate company located in Ottawa, is suing the Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF) and its Executive Director Lukas Straumann for defamation. BMF have engaged in a multi-year campaign making unfounded allegations, and Sakto is taking serious legal action to stop them.
Sakto has confirmed that it is turning its full legal attention to bringing Bruno Manser Fonds to trial for defamation. Sakto filed main civil court proceedings against BMF with the Basel Civil Court in January 2019 seeking to put an end the BMF active campaign against Sakto.
3 May 2019
Re: Bruno Manser Fonds – Annual general meeting 11 May 2019
Dear Bruno Manser Fund Board Members:
This letter is addressed to you as a Board member and supporter of the Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds, and we are writing to you in the context of the upcoming annual general meeting on 11 May 2019.
As with any organisation, be it an NGO or corporation, Board members have the legal and fiduciary responsibility for steering the organisation and ensuring that its resources are used prudently, activities are conducted according to applicable laws in a transparent and accountable manner, and the stated mission is adhered to.
Since 2010, BMF have invested inordinate amounts of donors' money into a misguided campaign against Sakto Corporation and its founders, directors, employees, and the founders’ children in Ottawa, Canada. They filed and sent eleven complaints and letters across six different jurisdictions with various authorities and promoted each action aggressively. In spite of the extraordinary efforts and amounts BMF have invested into that campaign, none of the numerous government agencies BMF tried to engage has ever taken action against Sakto.
BMF and Executive Director Lukas Straumann themselves have acknowledged, and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has confirmed, that BMF's dossier against Sakto and its founders in actual truth consists of information based on rumours, hearsay, media articles and reports, many of which were created by BMF themselves.
BMF and Lukas Straumann have repeatedly stated that Sakto and its founders have committed criminal acts, including money laundering. Lukas Straumann’s cross-examination in the Canadian court case proved that many of his beliefs, assertions, and allegations are not supported, or are contradicted, by the facts. Importantly, BMF has already admitted, in writing, to not having reasonable grounds to believe the allegations are true. Those admissions are included in the attached excerpts from the BMF court filings and the decision.
Sakto has brought legal action against BMF in Basel for defamation. There are now three strands of litigation against BMF and Lukas Straumann:
In February 2019, the Court had ruled that, while Swiss law is applicable, an urgent injunction is not warranted, mostly due to the passage of time since the BMF campaign began. Sakto disagrees with the factual and legal findings of the Civil Court, and an appeal has been filed with the Basel Court of Appeal. That appeal is currently pending.
As part of the main proceedings, Sakto has invoked its statutory right which will oblige BMF to account for – by giving access to their financial records – the ways in which they raised money to finance their defamatory campaign. As a result, Sakto also has the legal right to claim so-called “infringer’s profit”, i.e., the money that BMF raised in running their lengthy campaign based on suspicion and conjecture, at the expense of Sakto’s reputation.
BMF’s Chairman, Mr Dominik Bucheli, has stated that BMF members “are annually updated on BMF's finances and activities, and have the opportunity to question and discuss the use of funds at the annual general meeting”.
It remains a question as to whether BMF's donors were ever made aware that their donations towards the protection of the Malaysian rainforest and the indigenous people were used, in reality, to fund a massive legal and PR campaign against a company operating solely in Ottawa, Canada.
In 2017-2018 alone, BMF spent C$771,000 in legal fees and court costs just on their campaign in Canada. The costs associated with hiring a film crew and covering travel expenses for supporters to Canada come on top of this. According to Dominik Bucheli, BMF’s total annual budget is around C$2,750,000.
It is telling that in the article published on 5 February 2018 in the Toronto Star, which covered the failure at the Canadian court proceedings, and a decade of expenditures, Lukas Straumann was quoted as saying: “we have nothing to lose except money”.
Therefore, at the AGM on 11 May 2019, we would expect BMF’s Board members, as well as the donors and supporters, to question the legitimacy and validity of the campaign against Sakto and its founders in Canada. After Lukas Straumann’s decade long efforts, what are the measurable benefits to the indigenous tribes and the rainforest in Malaysia?
Sakto has made clear that the proceedings against BMF are intended to bring the public campaign to an end and to have the defamatory allegations against it retracted and deleted. The Board has the power to require BMF to bring an end to the campaign and the litigation, and to focus time and resources on their core mandate.
The facts matter. An NGO and its Board members are not beyond the law, and they are accountable for their words and actions. If BMF do not agree to end their campaign, Sakto will have no choice but to use all means available within the Swiss legal system to bring it to an end.
We encourage you to visit our website www.thefactsmatter.ca which provides further information and sets out the supporting documents, facts, and evidence regarding the unfounded and defamatory allegations by BMF against Sakto.
Sakto Corporation (‘Sakto’), a mid-size Canadian real estate company located in Ottawa, has filed an appeal seeking to overturn the Basel Civil Court decision concerning Sakto’s application for injunctive relief against Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds’ (‘BMF’) active defamatory campaign. On 6 February 2019, the Court had ruled that while Swiss law is applicable, an urgent injunction is not warranted, mostly due to the passage of time since the BMF campaign began.
Basel, Switzerland, and Ottawa, Canada – 11 February 2019 – Sakto Corporation (‘Sakto’), a mid-size Canadian real estate company located in Ottawa, has filed main civil court proceedings against Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds (‘BMF’).
Following a first procedural hearing at the Basel Civil Court on 7th December 2018, Judge Wolf has expressed a view that an urgent injunction before the civil proceedings is not warranted due in part to the passage of time since the BMF campaign began. However, the importance of this matter has not diminished for Sakto and its principals, and they remain confident that the Court will order the permanent removal of the defamatory material from the public domain after the main civil court proceedings. These proceedings have already been launched.
by Christian Mensch
First exchange of blows concerning Bruno Manser Fund before the Basel Civil Court
[English translation of the original German language article - Zeit Der Abrechnung]
Sakto Corporation is a small real estate company in Ottawa, Canada. But Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) is certain: Sakto is engaged in money laundering. The firm is funded by money allegedly earned through deforestation of the Malaysian rainforest. After all, Sakto belongs to the daughter of the Malaysian ex-governor Mahmud Taib and her husband.
The Basel-based nongovernmental organization has waged a campaign against Sakto for nine years as part of its effort to combat rainforest deforestation. In the past year, however, its attempt to obtain concrete financial data on Sakto by judicial means in Canada failed. Since then, a counter-campaign against BMF has been under way.
In August, Sakto filed an extensive action with the Civil Court in Basel for defamation. It is linked to a request for preliminary injunctive relief, requiring BMF to delete statements in the public domain and face a fine of 1,000 francs a day in the event of further “infringing acts.” On Friday, an initial hearing took place before the judge Salome Wolf, which was to address two preliminary questions: Is there urgency to justify the injunctive relief? And do the Basel judicial authorities even have jurisdiction in the case?
by Franziska Laur
Canadian real estate firm sues for defamation
[English translation of the original German language article - Ungemach Für Manser Fond]
Basel. For nine whole years, Sakto, a Canadian real estate firm, has been aware of the accusations of money laundering leveled by the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), but now its patience has apparently come to an end: yesterday the Canadians asked the Basel Civil Court to prohibit the further dissemination of 1,100 accusatory documents.
Two sub-aspects of the case were heard yesterday: whether Canadian or Swiss law should be applied and whether an urgent preliminary injunction should be handed down.
Both parties expressed confidence that they will prevail and said that they were glad to be able to make their case. The court will inform the parties of its judgment by mail. It can be assumed that the Sakto v. BMF case will be litigated for a long time to come.
PRESS RELEASE: Sakto Corporation Applies to Basel Civil Court for Injunction against Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds
Basel, Switzerland, and Ottawa, Canada – 20 August 2018 – Sakto Corporation (‘Sakto’), a mid-size Canadian real estate company located in Ottawa, announced today that it has applied to the Basel Civil Court to obtain an injunction against Bruno Manser Fonds (‘BMF’), a Swiss NGO based in Basel, Switzerland. The injunction seeks to order BMF to remove from the public domain a litany of false statements and speculative allegations relating to Sakto. These total over 1,100 infringing statements and over 250 publications. The injunction also seeks to prevent BMF from repeating the defamatory comments.
April 20, 2018, 5:13 PM EDT
A Swiss environmental group’s attempt to link a Canadian real estate company to Malaysian corruption failed because the advocates didn’t come up with enough evidence.