Cairns awarded $950,000 for libel

Chris Cairns. Photo / AP
Chris Cairns. Photo / AP

Chris Cairns last night won $174,000 in damages and $775,000 in court costs in his libel case against the man who accused him of match-fixing.

"Today's verdict lifts a dark cloud that has been over me for the past two years," the Kiwi cricketing legend said in a statement late last night.

"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.

"Lastly, I feel great relief that I am able to walk into any cricket ground in the world with my head held high."

But Cairns may have a fight on his hands to get the money as the defendant, former Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi, has been declared bankrupt in a separate hearing over unpaid bills to a security firm.

Cairns, 41, was on a "no win, no fee" agreement with his lawyer. But Justice David Bean ordered Modi to pay £400,000 ($775,000) of Cairns' court costs within 28 days. He has until April 20 to lodge an appeal.

Cairns wasn't in London's High Court late last night when Justice Bean read his verdict.

The cricketer sued Modi after he alleged on Twitter in January 2010 that he was involved in match-fixing in the 2008 season of the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), while captain of the Chandigarh Lions.

Modi was not in court either for the verdict, delivered about 10.30pm (NZ time). As well as the damages, the judge also granted an injunction to stop Modi repeating the defamation.

Justice Bean said: "It is obvious that an allegation that a professional cricketer is a match-fixer goes to the core attributes of his personality and, if true, entirely destroys his reputation for integrity.

"The allegation is not as serious as one of involvement in terrorism or sexual offences [as in recent cases]. But it is otherwise as serious an allegation as anyone could make against a professional sportsman."

The judge said that Modi had "singularly failed" to provide any reliable evidence that Cairns was involved in match-fixing or spot-fixing, or even that there were strong grounds for suspicion that he was.

He described evidence from former ICL anti-corruption officer Howard Beer as "partisan to the point of being unprofessional".

Cairns' lawyer, Andrew Caldecott, QC, said his budget had been £739,000 ($1.43 million) for a 10-day case and six witnesses. But it was more likely £600,000 ($1.16 million) as there ended up being four witnesses and the hearing was for nine days.

Mr Caldecott said Modi's costs were budgeted at £1 million ($1.94 million).

Cairns' legal team remains confident Modi will pay the Kiwi, a view shared last night by his friend Andrew Fitch-Holland, a lawyer who was a witness in the case. "I have no doubt that Chris will in due time receive the compensation that he has been awarded."

The verdict was greeted warmly by many Kiwi sports followers. London-based Warriors owner Eric Watson said he was "delighted to see Chris get the right result ... It's been pretty big news over here."

Modi's lawyer, Ronald Thwaites QC, revealed last night that prior to the hearing, the pair had considered an out-of-court settlement - $145,292 plus a coaching job with one of the teams Modi was associated with in the IPL or Sri Lanka.

The settlement, sought by Cairns, was set out in a letter last May - but Modi did not make a return offer.

The nine-day hearing wrapped up two weeks ago. Cairns' wife, Melanie Croser, had been by his side throughout, after the pair travelled from their home in Canberra, where they live with their 11-month-old daughter Isabel. Cairns was in Australia last night.

Modi claimed Cairns conspired with former Indian international Dinesh Mongia to put pressure on younger players to underperform and statements from players said they did so because they wanted to play.

Cairns has been questioned about his involvement with diamond-trading company Vijay Dimon in Dubai, and the large sums he received from it prior to the third edition of the ICL.

During the trial, Cairns gave very animated evidence, at times slamming his glass of water on the bench while answering questions from the defence.

He said the "wholly untrue" claims left him angry and saddened.

"The defendant's allegations have also had a profound effect on my personal and private life. It put a strain on my marriage," he said.

It hurt him that his wife might think he wasn't the man she thought he was. "It hurts me, too, that friends - many of whom are former cricketing foes - will question my integrity as a man and a sportsman and that all I achieved in the great game of cricket is dust."

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