Boris Berezovsky: I was the victim of a classic KGB operation

Russian tycoon dubs Roman Abramovich a gangster in latest chapter of £3bn High Court saga

The exiled Russian businessman and former politician Boris Berezovsky told the High Court in London yesterday of an "absolutely classic KGB black operation" to force him to sell shares in valuable media and oil companies to Roman Abramovich, whom he called "a gangster".

He was giving evidence on the fourth day of a trial in which he is seeking more than £3bn in damages from Mr Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, citing breach of trust and breach of contract.

In yet more Hollywood-style testimony revealing the extraordinary extent of lawlessness in the "Wild East" in Russia at that time, Mr Berezovsky cited an interview in 2000 in which the Russian leader Vladimir Putin said he "had a cudgel in his hand and is ready to hit me on the head with it". By this point, Mr Berezovsky had fallen out with Mr Putin, a former associate, and fled Russia. The court was told that his close friend and ex-business partner Nikolai Glushkov was arrested and imprisoned in Moscow on 7 December 2000, which Mr Berezovsky claims was an attempt to get at him.

"First there is threat. Then there is negotiation," he said. "When negotiation fails there is second threat. This is the type of KGB black arts operation you can read about in textbooks."

It was in this context, he claimed, that a meeting between Mr Abramovich and Mr Berezovsky's business partner, the now deceased Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvilli, took place at Le Bourget airport near Paris, at which Mr Abramovich's role was as President Putin's messenger.

Lawyers have submitted partial transcripts of a tape of this meeting, made secretly by Mr Patarkatsishvilli's head of security, and which Mr Berezovsky has admitted paying $50m to an unknown person to obtain.

Repeating Mr Patarkatsishvilli's words, he spoke to Mrs Justice Gloster in Russian, forcing his interpreter to translate. "You don't understand. They will waste him [Mr Glushkov]. They will do him in. They will kill him," he said.

Mr Berezovsky and Mr Abramovich were once close business associates, but Mr Berezovsky claims that after Mr Abaramovich "betrayed him" in 2000, he never spoke to him again. "This was the first time we recognised how powerful Abramovich had become," he said. "Abramovich was not a killer but he influenced the killers. He had this opportunity. He already was formed himself, I'm sorry to say, as a gangster."

Mr Berezovsky claims it was agreed that Mr Glushkov would be released in return for the sale of his shares in television network ORT to Mr Abramovich, and that Mr Abramovich broke this promise and later used Mr Glushkov's imprisonment to force him to sell his stake in valuable oil firm Sibneft for $1.3bn – a fraction of its value.

It was pointed out to Mr Berezovsky that his current claims were wildly different from earlier evidence he gave in other cases on the same matter, as well as in media interviews. With regard to one such example, a 2001 interview with the Moscow Times, Mr Berezovsky said: "This interview is a different story. Sometimes I try to send messages, because I recognise me as a politician."

Mr Berezovsky will continue to give evidence for much of this week.

Mr Glushkov is expected to do so in the forthcoming weeks, and Mr Abramovich in November.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A daily miscellany of general election facts, figures, trivia and traditions
voicesThere's still time for someone to do something to make us care
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, goes back to his family's Sicilian roots in the first 'Godfather' film
Kim Kardashian speaks on the Today show about her step-father's transition
Wenger and Mourinho square-up to each other earlier this season
sportAll the action from today's Premier League, including Everton vs Man Utd and Chelsea vs Arsenal
Tepper had a stunningly successful career as a songwriter
Arts and Entertainment
Len Blavatnik
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions