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Berezovsky quizzed over promise of 5 per cent to witness if case is successful

  • @tompeck

The exiled Russian businessman and former politician Boris Berezovsky has been questioned over whether his witness stands to gain financially should he win his £3.5bn claim against Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. The case is currently being heard in London's Commercial Court.

The Uzbekistan born Israeli businessman Michael Chernoy, a leading figure in the aluminium industry in Russia in the 1990s on which much of the case depends, is expected to appear as a witness later this month at the request of Mr Berezovsky.

Mr Abramovich's barrister Jonathan Sumption QC asked Mr Berezovsky, who was giving evidence for a sixth day: "Is it right that Mr Michael Chernoy stands to gain 5% if you win?"

Mr Berezovsky said “no, because this is bribing of witnesses”, but said: "Michael Chernoy is much richer than me. He has helped me with my life. We never discussed with Michael Chernoy the compensation as a result of my trial here.

"But if I win and Michael will not have enough money for his life, I will give him money for his life."

Mr Sumption asked if an agreement had been made between the two men that Mr Chernoi had given him $50m for the purposes of fighting this case, in return for repayment of the money as well as five per cent of any recoveries he makes.

Mr Berezovsky is claiming in excess of $6bn, a 5 per cent would equate to $300m. His legal costs in this case are particularly large, with his lawyer Lawrence Rabinowitz rumoured to be receiving around £5m.

Mr Sumption also asked Mr Berezovsky whether he had also agreed to pay 5 per cent of any recoveries to an unknown party in return for a secret tape recording of a crucial meeting between himself, his former business partner Badri Patarkatsishvilli and Mr Abramovich at Le Bourget airport in 2000.

Mr Berezovsky said he hadn't but that he had given them his yacht Thunder B, as "I didn't have cash." He said Thunder B was worth $25m.

If Mr Chernoy gives evidence to the trial it is expected to be via video link, as Interpol have issued a warrant for arrest on money laundering charges initiated by Spanish authorities. He denies the charges.

Mr Chernoy is fighting his own £2bn case against another Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska over aluminium assets in London next year. As things currently stand he will have to appear via video link from Israel. Mr Deripaska may also appear as a witness for Mr Abramovich in the proceedings involving Mr Berezovsky.

Jonathan Sumption QC said "thank you" as he finished six days of cross examining Mr Berezovsky, who didn't appear to realise the questioning was over.

"Mr Sumption, have you finished with me?" he asked, to much laughter from the court.

Roman Abramovich was again present in court, as was his girlfriend Daria Zuchova.

Mr Berezovsky's partner Yelena Gorbunova also attended.

"Yes," he replied. He then tried to ask the barrister, who is believed to be receiving somewhere between £5m and £10m for the case, a question, but was interrupted by Mrs Justice Gloster.

"This court is not a social occasion," she said.

For the first time in two weeks, the two mens' fleet of blacked out Maybachs and Land Rovers were not waiting outside the brand new court building in the City of London. On Tuesday all the vehicles were given parking tickets.

The case resumes on Monday.