The courtroom battle between Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich was undoubtedly good news for the London lawyers on both sides who, win or lose, will have garnered some nice fat fees – a total in excess of £100m has been mentioned. But it is legitimate to wonder in what way the public interest has been served by the monopolising of four months of English court time – and a further five months for the judge to pronounce a decision – over a dispute between two foreigners squabbling over goings-on in the lawless Wild East of post-Soviet Russia.
In one sense it is flattering to the fairness and propriety of the English legal system that these billionaire oligarchs should have chosen to air their squabble here, though it was extraordinary that both were so happy publicly to reveal their involvement in such a lurid world of business and political skulduggery.
The talk now is of the matter going to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court which could cost the thick end of half a billion pounds end to end. Very little of that will find its way into the public purse in compensation for clogging up courts which could be resolving disputes with much more relevance to the UK. Courts have to accept jurisdiction before they hear such cases. The legal authorities should be considering whether scrutiny of this legal tourism was sufficiently rigorous in this case.