Publisher apologises to Tory peer

Lord Ashcroft has received a public apology at the High Court over articles published in The Independent newspaper concerning his business interests in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

His QC told a judge in London that - despite a disclaimer - "the articles published, when read as a whole, did tend to link Lord Ashcroft's name with allegations of scandalous corruption".

Giving the background to the libel action, Mark Warby, representing the Conservative peer, told Mr Justice Eady that the November 2009 articles referred to Michael Misick, the former premier of the Turks and Caicos "and a man widely alleged to have been involved in corrupt activity".

Mr Warby said: "Mr Misick was said to have led a 'lavish lifestyle'. The articles stated that loans had been made to Mr Misick by a local bank. The bank was described as 'Lord Ashcroft's bank'."

The QC told the judge one article said: 'There is no suggestion that Lord Ashcroft or his companies were connected in any way to the alleged bribery and corrupt property deals for which Mr Misick is now being investigated'.

He added: "However, the articles as a whole will have given at least some readers a very different impression - both articles were published prominently: the first was a front page splash, and the second a two-page spread."

Mr Warby told the judge: "Independent News & Media now accept that, despite the disclaimer, the articles published, when read as a whole, did tend to link Lord Ashcroft's name with allegations of scandalous corruption.

"Independent News & Media wishes to make absolutely clear that it has found no evidence whatsoever that Lord Ashcroft or his companies have in any way been involved with activities in the Turks and Caicos Islands concerning politicians, public officials or others which might be considered to represent bribery or indeed any other corrupt practice."

With the apology and "the other confidential terms agreed, Lord Ashcroft is prepared to let the matter rest".

Julia Varley, appearing on behalf of Independent News & Media, told Mr Justice Eady that she accepted everything Mr Warby had said "and apologise to Lord Ashcroft for the embarrassment he has been caused by publication of the articles".