A freelance journalist formerly employed by Bloomberg has posted a tweet claiming that a witness against Roman Abramovich and other prominent Jewish businessmen may have changed his story in exchange for “a few shekels”.
The tweet relates to a recent case in the High Court, in which three prominent Jewish businessmen – Roman Abramovich, Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven – have asserted that a book by author Catherine Belton makes defamatory claims about them.
Following last week’s hearing, one of the sources in the book, Sergei Pugachev, whose statements are central to Mr Abramovich’s High Court case, gave an interview about what he had and had not said to the author. In the interview, Mr Pugachev appeared to distance himself from some of the claims attributed to him in the book.
Responding to this interview, Jason Corcoran, a freelance journalist formerly at Bloomberg, tweeted: “Talk about throwing Belton under a trolleybus. What has Pugachev to gain? A few shekels from an oligarch or is he trying to curry favour with the Kremlin after burning his bridges years ago.”
The notion that someone takes ‘treacherous’ action in return for “shekels” is a classic trope going back millennia. It is particularly poignant, given that Mr Abramovich and his fellow claimants, to whom Mr Pugachev is supposedly endearing himself by allegedly backtracking, are Jewish. The Shekel is the currency of the State of Israel.
The trope was recently used by Labour Party MP Barry Sheerman, who claimed that two wealthy British Jewish businessmen missed out on seats in the House of Lords because there had been “a run on silver shekels”, before apologising.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Suggestions that wealthy Jewish businesspeople induce treachery by others in return for the payment of ‘shekels’ is about as old a trope as one could find. However passionately Jason Corcoran may feel about this court case, it is no justification for his appalling comment. He must apologise immediately, before any media outlet agrees to collaborate with him again.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors traditional media and regularly holds outlets to account. If members of the public are concerned about reportage in the media, they should contact us at [email protected].