Berezovsky 'fled Russia over threat'

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The Independent Online

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky fled abroad a decade ago because his life was under threat, one of the businessman's former bodyguards told a High Court judge today.

Richard Giroud, head of Mr Berezovsky's security team between 1999 and 2006, said bodyguards were on "big alert" in 2000.



Mr Giroud was giving evidence during the fourth week of a trial before Mrs Justice Gloster at the Commercial Court in London.



Mr Berezovsky, 65, is suing Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, 45, for billions of pounds.



He says the Russian billionaire businessman "betrayed" him and "intimidated" him into selling shares in Russian oil company Sibneft for a "mere $1.3 billion" - £800 million - "a fraction of their true worth".



Mr Berezovsky alleges breach of trust and breach of contract and is claiming more than £3 billion in damages - more than five billion dollars.



Mr Abramovich denies the allegations and denies that Mr Berezovsky is entitled to damages. He says Mr Berezovsky was paid millions of pounds for his services as a "political godfather" but was not a business partner.



The court has heard that Mr Berezovsky "fled Russia, never to return" in late 2000, following a fall-out with then President Vladimir Putin - travelling initially to France and then settling in England.



Mr Berezovsky's lawyers have told the judge that during the summer of 2000 Mr Berezovsky had a "series of very public and very serious" policy disagreements with Mr Putin which resulted in Mr Putin "making more or less veiled threats" against him.



Mr Giroud today said Mr Berezovsky had a "close protection team" of about 15 people around him in late 2000.



"Mr Berezovsky explained to me why he left Russia, that's for sure," said Mr Giroud. "For a threat of his life."



He said the threat was "taken seriously" and added: "We was on big alert."



The hearing continues.

PA