For almost four months, London's brand new Commercial Court has offered the bizarre spectacle of two Russian oligarchs – one a pugnacious political fugitive, the other the taciturn owner of Chelsea Football Club – fighting over the, for them, paltry sum of a couple billion pounds. The fleets of limousines, the posses of bodyguards and the corridor chatter in Russian all contrasted with the very British surroundings. Finally, the seemingly interminable proceedings are at an end, and Mrs Justice Gloster has reserved her judgment for as long as it takes.
The initial ruling, that the case could be heard in London, might seem perverse. Why should two very rich men settle their personal duel according to English statute rather than in Russia, which was the backdrop for the dubious business dealings at the heart of this case? In the event, though, this had two merits. The first was to expose the chaos, corruption and malefaction that constituted Russia's post-Soviet business reality to an audience little acquainted with this particular chapter of recent history. The second was to direct rather a lot of money into the coffers of London's legal eagles. At a time when the UK economy needs all the help it can get, it is consoling to know that yet more oligarchs are waiting to strut their stuff before a British judge.