A wealthy West Vancouver businessman with ties to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won his defamation case against a blogger but was only awarded $1 in nominal damages.
Miafoei Pan sued Bing Chen Gao for defamation over a series of articles published on Gao’s WeChat social media account between December 2016 and February 2017.
At trial, Gao claimed to have been prompted to investigate and write about Pan after an article in The Globe and Mail newspaper two years ago described a fundraising dinner for the Liberal Party of Canada that was hosted by Pan in his West Vancouver mansion.
The article, entitled “Influential Chinese-Canadians paying to attend private fundraisers with Trudeau,” reported that the dinner was attended by the prime minister and 80 others.
In his testimony at the trial, Pan confirmed that he hosted Trudeau but objected to the insinuation in the article that the event was designed so he could influence the prime minister on economic policy.
He claimed that he told his lawyer to write to the newspaper and intimated that no further articles were written on the topic as a response to the letter, but provided no evidence to confirm that and no retraction was printed.
Gao was also sent a letter of warning from Pan but continued to publish articles, a move that Pan said motivated him to filed the lawsuit against Gao in B.C. Supreme Court.
Pan, who has held volunteer leadership positions in three charitable associations in the Chinese-Canadian community, claimed that he was defamed in 10 articles published by Gao, who worked as a journalist for 20 years in China before immigrating to Canada in 2004.
She said she found him to be evasive and defensive at times during cross-examination and noted his failure to list his income tax returns as ordered, a move she said was “very troubling.”
“I also find it relevant to the plaintiff’s credibility that he made a serious allegation against the defendant’s integrity, which was unsupported by any other evidence,” said the judge.
“Specifically, he testified that he was told by someone that the defendant wrote false articles in order to blackmail the plaintiff to pay him off to stop publishing.”
The judge found that Pan had been defamed in only two of the articles posted on WeChat, the social media platform that is popular among Chinese-speaking people.
One of the defamatory articles claimed that Pan obtained his positions in certain organizations because he paid money to do so rather than obtain them on merit and that he was involved in a real estate project that harmed hundreds of families.
The other defamatory article suggested that he’d wrongfully obtained monetary gains, owed substantial sums pursuant to Chinese court orders and used a nephew as a front for his business in China.
Pan sought damages of between $360,000 and $450,000 but the judge, noting that Gao was not motivated by malice, found that the plaintiff’s reputation as a community leader had not been damaged. She awarded him $1 in nominal damages.
Source: Vancauver Sun