Secret lives of the oligarchs
For months the Berezovsky vs Abramovich case has provided a tantalising glimpse into the shadowy world of Russia's super-rich. As the judge considers her verdict, Tom Peck sums up the highlights
It came to a very British end, this most Russian saga. The barristers thanked the judge, the judge thanked the typists and the translators and, after nearly four months of quite extraordinary testimony, all rose and filed out of the neon striplit box that is Court 26 of London's new Commercial Court, and returned to their wildly different lives.
The armies of bodyguards, and their paymasters, shuffled into their blacked out Maybachs and Bentleys and drove away for the final time. It is expected to be six months before Mrs Justice Gloster returns to give Messrs Abramovich and Berezovsky her answer to the six billion dollar question.
Was Mr Berezovsky intimidated into selling off his ownership stake in Mr Abramovich's valuable commodities companies for a "mere" £800m – "nothing" as he claims, and so is entitled to a further £3.5bn of the profits? Or was he no more than a "political godfather", entitled to no more than a series of mysterious "krysha" payments? The Russian word for roof, implying physical, and in this case political protection, has hung over this trial, and it is still not entirely clear quite what it means. We shall have to wait and see.
But in the meantime, here are some of the highlights of the biggest private litigation in English legal history, and one that has shed piercing light on the otherwise dark and secretive world of the Russian oligarchy.
'Dr Evil': Eugene Tenenbaum, a Chelsea FC director, claimed he saw a text from Mr Berezovksy to another potential key witness stating: "I know you're helping them. I'm watching you. I'm listening to your phone calls. I'm controlling your Skype," before signing it, "I'm Dr Evil". Mr Berezovsky's lawyers called this a "fabrication".
Gulfstream G5: It was on board a jet such as this that Mr Abramovich and Mr Deripaska flew from London to Russia, then turned round and flew straight back to attend that meeting at the Dorchester Hotel, that Mr Abramovich claims was not of great significance, he just wanted to spend some "quality time" with Mr Deripaska. Would there not have been a more comfortable way of doing so, he was asked? "Well, the Gulfstream G5, the jet we used, was the cutting edge," he matter of factly replied. "Very low pressure, very quiet, it was very comfortable. And the Lanesborough Hotel [where they stayed] is a comfortable hotel; and, let's face it, London is a nice place."
Dressing gown: Oleg Deripaska, he of Osborne and Mandelson Corfu yacht fame, claimed Mr Berezovsky arrived late for a meeting at the Dorchester Hotel wearing a dressing gown, saying he'd "been busy". Mr Berezovsky dismissed the claim as "smear and innuendo".
'Good question': "Good question" – unfortunately for Mr Berezovsky, he has previously sued Forbes magazine for claiming he had influence over President Yeltsin's Kremlin, the very matter on which his claim in this case depends. To much laughter from the court, and from Mr Abramovich, Jonathan Sumption produced witness statements from the earlier litigation and asked, "If you are now saying it is true, why did you deny it, and then sign a statement in support of your denial?" "That is a good question," Mr Berezovsky could only reply. "Yes," Mrs Justice Gloster intervened. "And it is a question you will have to answer."
Thunder B: Asked if it was true that he had paid $50m to an unknown party for a tape recording of a meeting between the two men at a Paris airport, Mr Berezovsky nonchalantly admitted: "No. I give them my yacht, Thunder B. I didn't have cash."
Chateau de la Garoupe: Mr Berezovsky's chateau in France, where Mr Abramovich is alleged to have forced his ex-business partner to sell his stake in his TV firm. But it may not have occurred. The two men's passport stamps suggest they were not in France then.
Yeltsin's presidential tennis club: It was here Mr Berezovsky urged the president to sell two oil firms, in return for support from his TV network in the 1996 election. The firms they bought for $100m formed Sibneft, which Mr Abramovich sold back to the Russian state for $13bn in 2005. Mr Berezovsky claims he has not had his fair share.
Yelena Gorbunova: Mr Berezovsky's glamorous partner has sat by his side for most of the trial. She appeared as a witness herself, accusing Mr Abramovich of "strange metamorphoses" in his passport stamps. Has occasionally been spotted looking at shoes on her iPad. After 43 full days of hearings, who can blame her?
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