Regional developer launches legal action over publication of ‘fake news’

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Beresford Mack (L) and Dr Isaac Newton

By Caribbean News Now contributor

DUBAI, UAE — Regional resort developer, Range Developments, and its founder, Mohammed Asaria, have filed a legal action in the state of Georgia claiming defamation and tortious interference against Beresford Mack and Dr Isaac Newton for their alleged part in the dissemination of fake news stories.

The law suit asserts that, on June 4, 2018, Mack and Newton caused fake news stories to be published against Asaria. The stories were untrue. Asaria and Range are seeking punitive, exemplary and special damages against Newton and Mack for their alleged roles in this serious fake news attack.

Mack, originally from Montserrat, describes himself as a “media consultant” and vice president of MC Media Inc., while Newton from Antigua with US nationality, claims to be a regional election consultant and “change agent”.

On Sunday, June 3, Caribbean News Now was also sent the “news story” in question by Mack, ostensibly on behalf of Newton, who is also an occasional op-ed contributor, claiming that Asaria had been arrested in Beijing, China.

According to Mack, he works alongside Newton at Paramount Communications and told Caribbean News Now that Newton “has asked me to send you this story for publication as soon as possible… Dr Newton is currently in St Kitts and so I am working on this story.”

As reported earlier, the story as submitted raised several red flags and we therefore declined to publish it unless and until the sources were independently corroborated.

In the event, the report turned out to be false and the publications that ran it, apparently unquestioningly, have since issued a retraction and apology to Asaria and Range.

An email sent to Newton on June 4 went unanswered until we ran a follow up story on June 8, whereupon we received a communication from Newton acknowledging receipt of our earlier email but saying that he chose not to reply “because I did not want to be drawn into what appeared to be an unfolding event that is absolutely irrelevant to me.”

However, Newton’s claim of non-involvement is explicitly contradicted by an exchange of emails we have seen from Mack to one of the publications that were hoodwinked by him and Newton into publishing the false story.

The email from the publication to Mack, asking what was going on, was prompted by a call from Range’s PR firm in London in response to the false story.

“Did Newton not check this story?” Mack was asked.

Mack replied asking if the PR firm was told that the publication had “pulled the story”.

“Can you let them know that the story has been pulled […] I told them it had gaps and I needed to check these before pushing it out but they were in so much hurry,” he said.

Apparently, the publication in question and others were to receive a payment for publishing the story.

“The money is been (sic) sent to me now so will send you the USD$300 still,” Mack said.

Another email from Mack outlined Newton’s involvement, notwithstanding his denial:

“Newton just told me I shouldn’t have dropped his name into it cos he had passed the project to me and I was doing it as an independent contractor… I went f****** mad, I said so you drop me under the f****** bus now and ruin my f****** reputation and relationship […] and then pull yourself out… so I said just get me the money now…”

It will become clear from the litigation what respective levels of responsibility Mack and Newton hold and the identity of their principals.

Given the ongoing litigation, Asaria and Range Developments preferred not to comment specifically on the content of Mack’s emails or the identity of their principals.

“Range’s board of directors is committed to pursuing anybody who seeks to damage its reputation or does not honour their contractual obligations towards Range,” said Rupert Wright, chairman of Ashbright, the company’s public relations firm. “It has hired Reed Smith, a leading international law firm, to seek the fullest possible damages in all jurisdictions.”

Neither Mack nor Newton responded to emailed requests for comment on this latest development in the matter.

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