European aid bank sues Chelsea owner Abramovich over £9m trading firm debt

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The Independent Online

The Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club was sued yesterday by a Western aid bank for $17.5m (£9m).

The Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club was sued yesterday by a Western aid bank for $17.5m (£9m).

Roman Abramovich, the second richest man in Britain, was named as a defendant in the legal action launched in a Swiss court in Fribourg.

The London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is suing Mr Abramovich for money it claims is still owed by his now defunct trading firm Runicom. Mr Abramovich, who may be called to give evidence in Switzerland, claims that the debt was honoured and insists that he will not pay twice.

The money was loaned by the EBRD to the Russian banking company SBS-Agro to fund loans to small and medium-sized businesses, before Russia's economic collapse in 1998.

However, when SBS-Agro collapsed along with much of Russia's banking sector, it claimed that it was unable to repay the debt. Instead, the company offered the EBRD a debt owed to an SBS-Agro affiliate Zoloto-Platina by Runicom, the company formerly owned by Mr Abramovich.

The following year, Runicom disputed requests to repay the money, claiming that the debt had already been paid to Zoloto-Platina.

However, two years ago, the Moscow Arbitration Court ruled that Runicom was legally obliged to repay the money to the European bank.