Abramovich tells of role in aluminium wars

Oligarch tells court how he formed world's biggest aluminium firm – without Berezovsky

It was with some initial reluctance that Roman Abramovich became involved in Russia's notorious aluminium wars of the 1990, he told a court yesterday. "Every three days, someone was being murdered," he pointed out.

The $575m (£358m) worth of aluminium assets might seem like a side issue in the $6bn litigation he is fighting against his former friend Boris Berezovsky, the bulk of which concerns shares in Siberian oil. But as Mr Abramovich gave evidence for a fourth day at London's Commercial Court, he shed a grim light on the shadowy world, albeit sprinkled with Gulfstream Jets and luxurious hotels.

It was against a backdrop of murders, extortion and intimidation that Mr Abramovich came – reluctantly, he claimed – to buy the giant Krasnoyarsk aluminium smelter in early 2000. With the workforce striking in the streets, the sellers, among them British commodities billionaire David Reubens, wanted out.

While Mr Abramovich claims it was he alone who bought the smelter, as well as another aluminium refinery, Mr Berezovsky maintains he and his business partner Badri Patarkatsishvili held 50 per cent of the assets in trust. When asked to explain why, in a recording of a secret meeting between the three men, he continually discussed the assets using the word "We" rather than "I", Mr Abramovich told the court: "I always say 'We'. I don't like to say 'I'." In this, he is like the Queen – although he is considerably richer.

Several media reports at the time, as well as a US visa application written by one of the sellers of the assets, claimed Mr Berezovsky was among the buyers. Mr Abramovich claimed it was entirely feasible that the seller in question might not know to whom he had sold them. "I mean, you are not selling a kitten whereby it's important that he gets into good hands; it's aluminium assets and you don't really care who gets them," he said.

At the heart of the matter is Oleg Deripaska, a man even richer and more publicity-shy than Mr Abramovich, but who shot to the attention of the British public when George Osborne and Peter Mandelson were caught on his yacht off Corfu in 2008.

Mr Abramovich eventually merged his aluminium assets with Mr Deripaska to create Rusal, the world's largest aluminium company.

Mr Abramovich has sought to play down the importance of a meeting at the Dorchester Hotel in 2000, at which Mr Berezovsky claims the details of the merger were worked out between the two men as well as Mr Patarkatsishvili and Mr Deripaska.

Mr Abramovich's passport records indicate that he flew to Moscow from London on 12 March 2000, and immediately flew back again at Mr Berezovsky's insistence, which the defence claims gives an indication that it was a meeting of some importance – not, as Mr Abramovich has claimed, merely a chance to spend some time alone with Mr Deripaska on the flight to discuss it.

To much laughter from the court, Mr Berezovsky's barrister, Laurence Rabinowitz, asked: "If you wanted to spend quality time with Mr Deripaska, you could have done it in far more convenient surroundings than both of you, having got back from London on one day, getting on a flight back to London the following day."

Mr Abramovich admitted it was perhaps not the most comfortable of settings, but pointed out: "The Gulstream G5, which was the jet that we used, was the cutting edge, very low pressure, very quiet jet, it was quite comfortable. And the Lanesborough Hotel [where they stayed] is a comfortable hotel; and, well, let's face it, London is a nice place."

The case continues.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone