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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 64952
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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Blackmail and ExtortionA former associate with access to

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Blackmail and Extortion A former associate with access to my media website, took control of my website after I told him I was excluding him for what I regarded as his misconduct. (I have full ownership. He worked on the site part time, being paid to do so by his employer which is a supporter of my site. He thus received a wage. This was supplemented by my paying him journalistic honoraria when I was able to. his was done in exactly the same manner one pays a freelance. H He was never promised a share in the site, and got none) He then changed all the passwords -- to email acounts; social media; and the site itself, thus excluding me. He then publicly declared himself to be the owner of the site and told contributors to stop sending in articles, thus causing huge harm to my site. He refused to comply with a lawyer's letter to hand back my site without delay. This went on for a week before a third party attempted to mediate a resolution. However, the mediation process quickly turned into a whole range of demands made upon me so that I would get my site back. Fearing continued and worsening damage to the site and its social media, I bent to his will and paid him $10,000. I also signed a non-disclosure agreement and a another agreement agreeing to his terms. He claims he deserved the money because he had an ownership claim due to the amount of work he had done on the site. This seems obvious nonsense. In any case, I believe that 1) I signed the agreements under duress and that they are therefore invalid. Why would I sign any agreement whatsoever to get back a site that was mine anyway?; 2) that I had every reason to believe that if I didn't comply with his demands for money my site would be further harmed -- every minute he kept hold of it and made it inactive, harm was being done; he had already caused harm by telling writers not to contribute; 3) That this must be serious criminal behaviour -- blackmail and extortion. Do you agree? Should I tell the police?

Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: UK Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Hi

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

Are you in the UK?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

For Jo C. In answer to your question I am a British citizen currently based in Slovakia. The incident described too place in the UK, as I said at the bottom of the question.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Do you mean that you gave him money in GBP?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

For Jo C What is going on? I did. But that is not the material point.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Would it be possible to give me the information I asked for? I need to ask these information requests or this answer will be wrong.

Is this going to be a trace of the transfer? How was it paid?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

For Jo C. The money was paid from my company account in Slovakia (an EU member state). The company owns and administers my website. It was therefore paid in euros from my Slovak company account and received in British pounds by the other party in his English account. The person who I believe extorted the money is based in London and is a British citizen.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Thanks.

Is he likely to be saying this money is owed for any reason? Not that it still couldn't be blackmail potentially but it would make a difference.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

For Jo C He had attempted to say that because he did so much work on the website he was entitled to a property share in it. And when I said I was excluding him, he took control of the website so as to extract from me what he thought was some fair compensation, believing that otherwise he would get nothing.


 


Now, the central rebuff to that is that he was paid to work part time on the website by a third party sympathetic to the website's aims. He was also given honoraria by me when I was able to do so in the way one pays freelancers. In other words, he had a wage for working on the website. That arrangement -- me as the owner, he as a paid part-time worker was clear to him from the start.


 


Also he was not involved in establishing the site in any way shape or form. He was not there at the start. I promised him no share at all.


 


Finally, he had acknowledged in email form that I was the owner of the website and that he was working under me on it. That email came just a few weeks before this blew up. So, his own words show that he knew he did not in fact have a share in the ownership. What he did was in a fit of anger because he felt aggrieved that I no longer wanted to work with him.


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Thanks.

Overall, this is blackmail. Its not often that can be said of civil disputes really. People make threats all the time during the course of civil disputes. However, if he has asked for 10k and withheld access to your site until that is paid then that is blackmail.

He might well be arguing that he should be entitled to a property share but if that wasn't agreed then he is not. The fact that it might well have been a bad deal for him doesn't entitle him to change the deal later.

The fact that you are abroad isn't a bar. At least part of the offence was committed on the UK and that is all the law requires. The difficulty will be that you would have to be in the uk to report it and further the case but given the amount involved its worth it.

You can show a transfer easily enough. Obviously that proves nothing of itself but if you can show the prior negotiation then I don't immediately see a defence he could raise

You could also sue him for its return but you will have to be in the UK for that as well.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Many thanks for you help. One final query. I may have mentioned that, in order to get my site back, which was being damaged every second that it was witheld from me, I was pushed into a mediation process with a third party who essentially brokered the deal: I pay my opponent the money and agree to a host of other things and I get back what was rightfully mine in the first place. That was the deal I had to sign. I know a bit about contract law, and to me this is obviously a contract signed under duress. I would have never signed anything at all to get back something I owned unless I felt was being forced to under the wilful and deliberate menace of the continued destruction of my site. As far as I can see, the only conceivable defence my opponent has is that, heck, you signed the piece of paper man, don't come crying to me now! Would you agree from the information I have provided that I was in fact subjected to duress and that anything I signed would be voided on those grounds in a court of law?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
You could argue it amounts to commercial duress but mistake is a better claim.

If you were in a position where you weren't allowed onto the site until you paid so you did then you can sue him for the return of the money on the basis that it was a mistake as you didn't owe it
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 64952
Experience: Over 5 years in practice.
Jo C. and 6 other UK Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

For Jo C. A final point then, you say this pretty clearly amounts to blackmail, which is a criminal offence. Having got me to sign a non-discolure agreement as part of the deal, would that prevent me from taking the charge of blackmail to the police or of making the charge publicly? And what does "mistake" in this case imply, and mean for the validity of anything I signed?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Sorry for the delay. I lost my connection.

The non disclosure agreement will not prevent anything at all. Apart from anything else that was signed under duress as well.

Mistake is essentially given its normal English meaning. It was a mistake that you paid. You don't owe the money.

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