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
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?