London court rules UK spy behind Trump dossier must give evidence in U.S. libel trial

People stand outside the building housing the offices of Orbis Buiness Intelligence (C) where former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele works, in central London, Britain, January 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters) - Former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a “dossier” of allegations linking U.S. President Donald Trump to Russia, must give a deposition in a U.S. libel case, lawyers for the Russian businessman involved said on Friday.

Businessman Aleksej Gubarev is suing the Buzzfeed website, which published the dossier in January last year, for libel in a Florida court over claims made about him and his companies and as part of his case his lawyers asked to take evidence from Steele.

Last November, a British court ruled Steele should undergo lengthy pre-trial questioning and in February his lawyers sought to have that order quashed, arguing it could put his sources at risk and harm UK national security

On Friday, the High Court in London agreed Steele should provide a deposition which would be used in the Florida trial, Gubarev’s lawyer said.

“The court has rightly ordered that Christopher Steele must now answer under oath the relevant and appropriate questions to be put to him in deposition. I expect the deposition to take place in the next eight weeks,” said lawyer Steven Loble.

Sources close to Steele said the judge had said the questioning had to be limited to avoid anything that could expose his informants.

Steele, a former MI6 officer, authored the report which alleged Moscow had attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and potential collusion between Russia and Trump, along with other unverified and salacious claims about the president.

Trump has described the report as “bogus” and Moscow has repeatedly rejected accusations of interference in the election.

Gubarev’s case is one of a number of lawsuits being brought against Buzzfeed in the wake of the dossier’s publication, and the businessman is also suing Steele himself for libel in Britain in a separate action.

Reporting by Michael Holden, Editing by William Maclean