Lawsuit Filed: Wall Street Journal Faces Defamation Allegations Over Tether-Bitfinex Article

The Wall Street Journal is facing a defamation lawsuit over an article that allegedly falsely accused a Thai-based aviation fuel broker and his company of involvement in illegal activities at stablecoin issuer Tether and crypto exchange Bitfinex. 

Christopher Harborne, the owner of AML Global Ltd., filed the lawsuit in a Delaware state court on February 28, claiming that the article made baseless accusations of fraud, money laundering, and financing terrorism.

The contentious article, titled “Crypto Companies Behind Tether Used Falsified Documents and Shell Companies to Get Bank Accounts,” was published in March 2023. 

It reported on Tether and Bitfinex’s struggles with maintaining access to the global banking system and suggested that they resorted to using shadowy intermediaries, falsified documents, and shell companies to regain access. 

The Wall Street Journal claimed that some of these accounts were involved in illegal activities.

Wall Street Journal Article Included Harborne and AML in Article

The article originally included several paragraphs that mentioned Harborne and AML. 

However, on February 21, 2024, a week before the lawsuit was filed, an editor’s note was added, stating that the section about Harborne and AML had been removed to avoid implying their involvement in misleading banks or the withholding or falsification of information during the account application process.

In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for The Wall Street Journal stated that the disputed section had been removed from the article after receiving a dispute from Harborne’s counsel. 

They also added an editor’s note, in accordance with their editorial standards.

The spokesperson further noted that the lawsuit filed against Dow Jones (the parent company of The Wall Street Journal) contained inaccuracies and distortions. The publication is committed to a strong legal defense, as it takes its journalistic responsibilities seriously.

Harborne clarified in the lawsuit that while he does have a 12% ownership stake in Bitfinex, it is a result of the company’s reimbursement plan for customers affected by a 2016 hack of the exchange. 

He emphasized that he has never held a management or executive role at Bitfinex or Tether and is merely a minority shareholder.

WSJ Publishes False Information About Crypto’s Role in Illicit Financing

Last year, WSJ published an article titled “Hamas Militants Behind Israel Attack Raised Millions in Crypto,” which alleged that Hamas raised over $130 million in cryptocurrency between August 2021 and June 2022.

The Wall Street Journal article was even referenced by US lawmakers including Senator Elizabeth Warren, who co-signed a letter with over 100 members of Congress urging the White House and Treasury Department to crack down on cryptocurrencies due to their alleged use in funding Hamas operations.

However, blockchain analytics company Elliptic refuted claims that Hamas received millions in crypto donations in the months leading up to its attack on Israel earlier this month.

Elliptic stated in a blog post that there is “no evidence to support the assertion that Hamas has received significant volumes of crypto donations.”

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