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Berezovsky Loses London Court Battle Against Abramovich

  • RFE/RL

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has lost a multibillion-dollar lawsuit in London against his former partner and fellow Russian tycoon, Roman Abramovich.

Judge Elizabeth Gloster of London's High Court on August 31 dismissed the $6 billion lawsuit filed by Berezovsky, the 66-year-old self-exiled former Kremlin power broker, against 45-year-old Abramovich, the billionaire owner of the Chelsea Football Club in England.

The long-running legal battle between the two tycoons has riveted public attention because of the insights it provided into the way business was done in Russia in the early 1990s, after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Berezovsky was suing Abramovich for allegedly intimidating him into selling his stakes in Russian oil company Sibneft greatly below their value.

Berezovsky also claimed that Abramovich sold his shares in RusAl, the world's top aluminum producer, without his permission.

Judge Gloster told the court on August 31 she found Berezovsky to be an "unimpressive, and inherently unreliable" witness.

She said the evidence he gave was at times "deliberately dishonest," and sometimes "clearly" made up.

Fell Out Of Favor With Putin

Berezovsky, who wielded considerable political power in Moscow during the 1990s presidency of Boris Yeltsin, fled Russia in 2000 when he lost favor with Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin.

Berezovsky, speaking to reporters after the court session, ridiculed the judgment against him, suggesting it could have been authored by Putin himself.

"Not only am I disappointed but I am awfully surprised. This is not just disappointment," Berezovsky said.

"I have lived in this country for 11 years and this wasn't my first trial. But what happened today -- I repeat, I have the impression that this judgment was written in the administration of the Russian president."

Berezovsky claimed that Abramovich had "betrayed" him and, seeking to curry favor with Putin, threatened him with expropriation of his assets unless he sold his shares in Sibneft to him for a what Berezovsky described as a "mere $1.3 billion."

Abramovich denies the allegations. He says Berezovsky was paid millions of dollars for political cover and protection -- but was not his business partner.

Berezovsky on August 31 again rejected Abramovich's denial as a "lie."

"Everything that Abramovich presented in court was a lie -- everything, starting from the point that we hadn't been partners, and so on," he said. "It's well-known in the whole business community."

Russia's state gas monopoly Gazprom bought Sibneft, Russia's fourth-biggest oil company, from Abramovich for $13 billion in 2005.

Berezovsky also accused Abramovich of breaking a promise in a deal involving the RusAl aluminum manufacturer.

Reports have suggested over the past seven months that the London case heard testimony worthy of a thriller novel.

Berezovsky was in court on August 31 to hear the verdict. Reports said Abramovich did not attend.

Berezovsky and Abramovich have spent a reported $158 million on the case, which has involved an army of lawyers.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

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