Roman Ambramovich to learn Boris Berezovsky case outcome

 

Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich will discover this week whether he has won a multibillion-pound legal battle with fellow Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, court officials have said.

Mr Berezovsky, 66, claimed that Mr Abramovich, 45, had "intimidated" him into selling shares in a Russian oil company at a fraction of their value, during a High Court trial which started in London in October 2011 and ended in January 2012.

He also claimed that Mr Abramovich had broken a promise made during a deal relating to an aluminium company.

Mr Berezovsky alleged blackmail, breach of trust and breach of contract and claimed more than £3 billion damages.

Mr Abramovich denied the allegations and denied that Mr Berezovsky was entitled to damages.

Judicial Office officials said today that High Court judge Mrs Justice Gloster would deliver a ruling in London on Friday.

A Judicial Office spokesman said Mrs Justice Gloster would give a summary of her judgment at the High Court on Friday.

He said the judge's full judgment would be published on a date to be fixed.

Laurence Rabinowitz QC, for Mr Berezovsky, told the trial both men had worked together to acquire Russian oil company Sibneft following the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago - and became friends.

Mr Berezovsky claimed that in 1995 he, a colleague and Mr Abramovich agreed to "work together" to bring Sibneft under their control.

They had persuaded then Russian president Boris Yeltsin to "bring about the privatisation of Sibneft and its disposal into their hands", Mr Rabinowitz told the court.

But Mr Abramovich had intimidated Mr Berezovsky and his colleague into selling their ownership interest in Sibneft at a "massive undervalue" and put Mr Berezovsky "in fear for the life of his friend and the risk that his property might be expropriated", added Mr Rabinowitz.

Jonathan Sumption QC, for Mr Abramovich, said Mr Berezovsky was paid millions of pounds by businesses controlled by Mr Abramovich for his services as a "political godfather".

But Mr Sumption said Mr Berezovsky had not "contributed a single cent" to acquiring or building up Sibneft, nor made any managerial contribution.

He said Mr Berezovsky's contribution had been "important, indeed ... indispensable" but "almost entirely political".

Mr Rabinowitz told the judge that, at a meeting at the Dorchester Hotel in London on 2003, Mr Abramovich had agreed to hold half of a 50% stake in aluminium giant RusAl on trust for Mr Berezovsky and a colleague of Mr Berezovsky's.

But Mr Berezovsky claimed that in 2003, Mr Abramovich had sold half of the stake to another Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, Mr Rabinowitz added.

Mr Sumption said Mr Abramovich disputed the RusAl claim.

The court was told that Mr Berezovsky fled Russia, never to return, in late 2000, following a falling out with then president Vladimir Putin - travelling initially to France, then settling in England.

Mr Rabinowitz said Mr Berezovsky had been "betrayed" after falling out with Russian political leaders and leaving Russia.

Mr Sumption, who is now a Supreme Court judge, told the trial that lawyers were debating events in a Russian state where there had been "no rule of law".

He said quite extraordinary conditions had existed in a country where police were "corrupt" and courts open to "manipulation", and told the judge that it was not easy for UK lawyers to assess the behaviour of people who lived in "such a world".

Both Mr Berezovsky and Mr Abramovich gave evidence at the trial.

Mr Rabinowitz told the court that Mr Abramovich produced a "performance" which was a "cynical and deceitful manipulation of the trial process", showed an "apparent willingness and ability to manufacture evidence to suit his case" and "colluded" with witnesses to put forward a case directed solely at defeating Mr Berezovsky's claim "without regard to the truth".

Mr Sumption told the judge that Mr Berezovsky was "persistently and deliberately untruthful" and "made up the facts" on "many occasions".

PA

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