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John Malkovich is claiming that the French newspaper Le Monde defamed him by connecting him to an international tax-evasion scheme known as “SwissLeaks.” The actor has filed a defamation action in Paris, and has also gone to a New York federal court to find out what CBS’ 60 Minutes knows about how the newspaper’s investigation was conducted.
According to court papers filed by Malkovich last week, 60 Minutes worked with Le Monde on the “SwissLeaks” story and took on the task of verifying information related to Americans, including Malkovich.
Last February, led by producers Ira Rosen and Habiba Nosheen as well as correspondent Bill Whitaker, 60 Minutes covered the scandal, which developed after computer files of the multinational bank HSBC’s clients were leaked to a consortium of investigative journalists. In the 60 Minutes report, viewers were told that the data was “shaking the Swiss banking world to its core,” and that the documents revealed how the bank did business with “tax dodgers, arms dealers and drug smugglers,” but Malkovich himself wasn’t named.
In a court declaration (see here), Malkovich says that in the 1990s he had an account with another bank acquired by HSBC, but the account was closed two weeks before the acquisition. He says there was nothing secret about his account and that he paid taxes associated with it.
Malkovich says that last October, he was contacted by Rosen and had several conversations with him.
“Mr. Rosen stated that there were two HSBC accounts listed in my name, neither of which contained any funds,” he states. “I informed Mr. Rosen that I was not engaged in tax evasion and, to my knowledge, I never had a bank account with HSBC. I speculated that my name could have appeared in HSBC’s files because of my investments with the convicted fraudster, Bernie Madoff. I mentioned to Mr. Rosen that Mr. Madoff may have had such bank accounts, but I never did.”
Rosen is said to have told Malkovich that he wouldn’t be mentioned in the 60 Minutes story.
Malkovich said he mistakenly believed this would end the matter. But it didn’t. Le Monde came out with a story in February which mentioned him and two other individuals as examples of those caught up in the drama. The actor himself translates one of the paper’s French tweets as stating, “#SwissLeaks: from Gad Elmaleh to John Malkovich, many celebrities are embarrassed.”
Malkovich is upset with the newspaper’s thesis, which he sees as alleging that there is evidence that he engaged in criminal tax evasion. Malkovich says he never got a call from anyone at Le Monde, and that his denial to CBS “does not appear to have been taken into account by the Le Monde Defendants.” He adds, though, that the newspaper included a statement from him: “Malkovich said he had no knowledge of the account in Geneva that bears his name.”
As he pursues Le Monde, Malkovich’s lawyer says that CBS’ communications with the French newspaper are needed.
“In the Paris Action, the Le Monde Defendants will have an opportunity to defend their misconduct by contending that they acted in good faith in publishing false statements about Malkovich,” says a petition for an order to conduct discovery for use in a foreign proceeding. “The discovery requested … is necessary for challenging such a contention, because it will confirm whether or not the information Malkovich provided to CBS was, in turn, conveyed to the Le Monde Defendants.”
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