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
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform