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Corporate intelligence agency pays substantial damages over claim for spying

K2 intelligence limited has agreed to pay substantial damages to five prominent anti-asbestos campaigners

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7 November 2018

K2 intelligence limited has agreed to pay substantial damages to five prominent anti-asbestos campaigners; Laurie Kazan-Allen; Rory O’Neill; Krishnendu Mukherjee; Sugio Furuya and Harminder Bains in a case against Mayfair-based K2, its Executive Managing Director Matteo Bigazzi, and Robert Moore.

Moore was engaged and paid by K2 to work on ‘Project Spring’ and to infiltrate and spy on the campaigners’ anti-asbestos network for the benefit of K2’s client. The network comprises eminent anti-asbestos campaigners whose activities, internationally, are focused on the prevention of asbestos-related diseases. In a document entitled ‘Phase One Report’, Moore articulated the initial aims of the Project and set out the blueprint for obtaining information, stating  “I would like to engage with IBAS [International Ban Asbestos Secretariat] and LKA [Laurie Kazan-Allen] in the most genuine and heartfelt way possible so that I can establish both an intellectual and emotional connection with LKA”. 
 
Moore claimed to be a documentary filmmaker who wanted to make a film exposing the hazards of asbestos and to establish a ‘Stop Asbestos’ charity. Under this cover Moore embedded himself into the heart of the network, and from 2012 to 2016 gained access to highly confidential information, valuable to K2’s clients. His activities included covertly recording discussions with ban asbestos campaigners, including the Claimants, as well as talks given at private meetings. Invoices produced by Moore show that K2 paid him a total of £336,000 in fees and £130,400 in expenses.
 
Legal proceedings were initiated in October 2016 for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and breach of the Data Protection Act.  In October and November, the High Court granted injunctions against Moore and K2. Moore handed over more than 35,000 documents - 650 of which he claimed were passed to K2.  
 
In March 2017, despite strenuous resistance, K2’s clients’ identities were revealed to be: Wetherby Select Ltd, a holding company in the British Virgin Islands; Kazakh asbestos industry lobbyist Nurlan Omarov; and Daniel Kunin, a politically well-connected US national also directly involved in Kazakhstan’s asbestos industry. It was alleged that the aim of Project Spring was to obtain information about the anti-asbestos campaign, its funding and its strategies particularly in relation to a ban on the importation and usage of chrysotile (white asbestos) in Thailand and Vietnam. It was alleged that over the course of the project K2’s client made multiple requests for information via Matteo Bigazzi. These requests included requests for country-by-country updates from regional ban asbestos conferences and requests for information as to the campaigners’ expectations of when asbestos bans would be implemented. 

Richard Meeran, partner at law firm Leigh Day, solicitor for the claimants said: “The extent of intrusion into these campaigners’ private lives shines a worrying light on the opaque activities of the burgeoning, corporate intelligence industry.”

Laurie Kazan-Allen, founder and publisher of the British Asbestos Newsletter (BAN) and founder and co-ordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat said: “The global campaign to ban asbestos is a legitimate grassroots movement backed by untold numbers of asbestos victims, trade unionists, NGOs, legal, medical and technical experts. This case was initiated to expose covert actions to infiltrate our network and target those of us perceived to be a threat to the asbestos industry. We succeeded in our aim in this litigation. The asbestos industry will lose the battle to preserve asbestos markets. We look forward to an asbestos-free future!”

Krishnendu Mukherjee, barrister and anti-asbestos campaigner, said: “Rob Moore spied on anti-asbestos activists in India and in other Asian countries where the use of this carcinogen is rapidly increasing. We will put this behind us and carry on our struggle against asbestos with renewed vigour.”
 
Professor Rory O’Neill, health and safety adviser to the global union confederation ITUC and Editor of Hazards Magazine said: “Corporate spying is just one of the tools in the asbestos lobby’s locker. There is a cabal of UK-based scientists who are among the asbestos industry’s favourite hired guns, churning out junk science in defence of their wares. It is deceitful, deadly and must be stopped.”

Sugio Furuya, coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), said: “The spy shamefully deceived dedicated people working to avoid unnecessary deaths due to asbestos in Asia, the last resort for the international asbestos industry and the main target of the spying operation. However I can confirm, the work is continuing and Asia is moving towards a ban on asbestos.”
 
Harminder Bains, asbestos partner at Leigh Day, said: “The strategies and tactics used by Moore have been elicited by this Court case.  We should not be intimidated, but should continue to campaign and expose the asbestos industry’s lies.”

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