Abramovich pulled into £300m court case

Russian exile claims he was cheated out of fortune while in Cambodian jail

Deputy Business Editor

The Chelsea Football Club  owner, Roman Abramovich,  and billionaire Oleg Deripaska look set to be dragged into a £300m London High Court battle between a fugitive Russian businessman and his lawyer.

Sergei Polonsky, a Russian property magnate, alleges that deception by his Mayfair lawyer resulted in the loss of his fortune while he was holed up (wrongly, he claims) in a Cambodian prison.

He claims the lawyer told him that Mr Abramovich was buying his businesses, but that this was untrue and he alleges the lawyer knew that the would-be purchaser was not Mr Abramovich but a business rival of Mr Polonsky.

In a tale like a John Grisham novel, the alleged deceit took place while Mr Polonsky was incarcerated a year ago in a Cambodian prison camp under suspicion of assaulting and illegally detaining the crew of his yacht. He has still not been cleared of those charges, although he hopes to be soon.

He is also separately wanted in Russia for an alleged $160m fraud.

During his imprisonment, he claims, he had limited access to phones and email, and so had entrusted his lawyer, Alexander Dobrovinsky, to sell his property empire. The business owned developments in London, the US, France, Moscow and elsewhere.

The lawsuit alleges that Mr Dobrovinsky, who has acted as a legal adviser to numerous Russian oligarchs, claimed he was selling the business to an offshore company owned by Mr Abramovich. But, soon after the deal was completed, he says, Mr Deripaska, a metals billionaire who had also expressed an interest in buying the properties, told him the Chelsea tycoon had nothing to do with it. The buyer was actually Mr Polonsky’s fellow shareholder, Roman Trotsenko.

Mr Polonsky says in the lawsuit that he specifically told his lawyer he did not want the business sold to Mr Trotsenko because he did not trust him. But, the claim alleges, the lawyer repeatedly misled him, even after Mr Polonsky challenged him.

Mr Polonsky claims he has received only a few million dollars of the hundreds of millions he says he is owed, and alleges that the lawyer was acting for Mr Trotsenko all along.

Among his claims in the suit is that he was left so out of pocket that he could not afford to buy a speedboat he had ordered, costing him  his $1m deposit.

His claims against Mr Dobrovinsky and his fellow lawyer, Natalia Levinzon, include deceit, being in breach of a retainer, being in breach of fiduciary duty, concealment and bad advice.

The two lawyers did not respond to numerous requests for comment but it is understood they intend to contest the proceedings.

A spokesman for Mr Abramovich said he was aware of the lawsuit but that the Chelsea owner knew nothing of the Polonsky deals and was not involved in any way.

Mr Polonsky famously was on the receiving end of a punch from Alexander Lebedev, whose son Evgeny owns The Independent, during a Russian television broadcast.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all