By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York state judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Apollo Global Management Inc billionaire co-founder Leon Black of defaming a woman by falsely claiming she tried to extort him after accusing him of rape.
Justice David Cohen said the accuser, Guzel Ganieva, could not pursue her claims after receiving $9.5 million from Black under a nondisclosure agreement that followed their six-year relationship, which ended in 2014.
Black, 71, has denied raping or behaving inappropriately with Ganieva, who is about three decades younger. Black left Apollo in 2021.
Cohen said Ganieva’s acceptance of Black’s payments and decision not to contest the nondisclosure agreement barred her from claiming she signed it under duress.
The Manhattan judge also found no proof that Ganieva, a single mother and former Russian model, did not understand the agreement.
“The NDA clearly and unambiguously covers all claims arising out of the parties’ relationship, past or future,” Cohen wrote.
Ganieva fired her law firm in March and chose to represent herself, court records show. She did not immediately respond to a message left at a phone number listed for her Manhattan home.
“From the very beginning, I’ve made clear that Ms. Ganieva’s allegations against me were false,” Black said in a statement. “I am gratified that the truth has come out and justice has been finally done.”
The lawsuit stemmed from a March 2021 interview in which Black said he had “foolishly had a consensual affair” with Ganieva, and that she extorted him based on threats to go public.
He was responding to posts on Twitter where Ganieva accused him of having sexually harassed and abused her for years.
Black is worth $8.8 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
He still faces a lawsuit by another woman, Cheri Pierson, who has accused him of raping her two decades ago in the late financier Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan.
Susan Estrich, a lawyer for Black, in an interview following Cohen’s decision said Pierson’s lawsuit, like Ganieva’s, had no merit and “will likely be dismissed.”
The case is Ganieva v. Black, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 155262/2021.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)