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.
The Swiss Case is a Defamation Lawsuit
BMF take the position that the defamation lawsuit is an attempt to muzzle them and is strategically filed, rather than legitimately motivated to address defamatory statements and publications. The suggestion is that there is no merit to Sakto’s claim, and that it is being pursued to bankrupt BMF or to force them into settlement because they cannot afford to defend their case.
In fact, the lawsuit is an act of self-defence and a last resort. It was filed only after BMF filed a lawsuit in against Sakto in Canada and failed. Despite the clear ruling in Canada, Sakto remains under attack by BMF, and all of the false allegations remain publicly available. This is a defamation lawsuit, brought with legitimate objectives, and Sakto is confident that the Swiss court will administer justice fairly and impartially.
This legal dispute began when Lukas Straumann and BMF launched a three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar lawsuit in Canada asking the court for powers equal to the police to seize Sakto's financial records. BMF and Straumann had been alleging, for years, that Sakto, and its principals and their families, had been engaged in corruption in Canada, the US, and Malaysia. BMF filed 2500 pages of evidence in the Canadian courts. Lukas Straumann provided extensive evidence through his testimony under oath.
The law in Canada is clear. To access private records, BMF would have to have shown evidence to the court that “there were reasonable grounds to believe a crime had been committed.” “Reasonable grounds” is a basic legal standard that is found throughout the common law world.
However, BMF and Straumann continued to make these allegations of corruption against Sakto. Sakto had no choice but to take steps to end the campaign and restore its reputation as a respected and ethical Canadian company.
Accountable to the Authorities
One theme that pervades the writing on this lawsuit is that Sakto is hiding something that BMF should be entitled to see. Let’s be very clear on this point. Sakto is a successful Canadian business that has been operating in Canada’s capital city for over 30 years. They are subject to, and fully comply with, the laws of Canada. They are fully accountable to the Government of Canada and its financial and law enforcement departments, who, through fair and lawful process, have access to Sakto's records.
BMF – a foreign activist group – have filed complaints with the appropriate authorities in Canada and around the world, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Switzerland – none of which was successful. Rather than accept the judgment of the authorities charged with investigating and enforcing the law, BMF dismiss the adequacy of ALL of these agencies.
An NGO is Not Above the Law
BMF and Lukas Straumann are not the police, the tax authority, or the court. Nor have they proven to be a trustworthy arbiter of the truth throughout this campaign. Those with the legal authority to investigate BMF’s allegations have made their decisions.
The defamation lawsuit would have been unnecessary if BMF had respected the judgment of the Canadian court. Continuing the campaign left Sakto and its principals with no option but to pursue legal recourse to restore their reputation. Ceasing the campaign and removing the offending material has always been, and remains, an option for BMF and Lukas Straumann. That is the outcome Sakto seeks