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CityJet takes libel case over transparency group’s report

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CityJet is suing an anti-corruption NGO for defamation over a report which gave the airline a very poor openness and transparency rating.

The regional carrier received a 0pc rating in a Transparency International Ireland (TII) National Integrity Index report for private sector companies, published last month.

The NGO’s rating system set out to measure the degree to which companies were prepared to address corruption-related risks, based on the information they disclose to the public. CityJet was one of 30 major Irish companies chosen for the report.

After it was published, the airline accused TII of damaging its reputation without confirming the facts.

It asked for the document to be taken down from the NGO’s website. However, TII refused, saying it stood over the report.

Defamation proceedings were initiated in the High Court on Tuesday. As well as seeking damages, CityJet wants an order directing the report be withdrawn.

It has claimed it was contacted by TII while it was in examinership last year.

However, TII maintains it also made contact after the company exited examinership last August and extended a deadline for responses.

The outcome of the case will be closely watched by NGOs and other bodies who monitor corporate governance and transparency. Reports similar to the TII one have become increasingly common in recent years. But is a victory in the courts for CityJet could prompt a rethink of how they are compiled and presented.

In a statement, the airline said: “Transparency International Ireland sent a number of unsolicited emails to CityJet in 2020, initially during CityJet’s examinership process and in the midst of the pandemic, which were not prioritised or engaged in. Notwithstanding having no direct input from CityJet, Transparency International Ireland published an assessment which has damaged our reputation without confirming the facts. CityJet is compliant with its obligations.”

TII chief executive John Devitt said he was unable to comment as proceedings had been initiated.

The report came not long after a rough period for CityJet during which it was restructured, shedding all bar 450 of its 1,100-strong workforce.

The slimmed down carrier remains headquartered in Swords, Co Dublin. It does not offer scheduled services, but provides aircraft and crew for other airlines. At present, its sole hub is Copenhagen Airport, where it operates services on behalf of SAS.

TII is the Irish chapter of the worldwide Transparency International organisation.

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