Berezovsky loses Abramovich claim

A judge ruled in favour of Roman Abramovich in a High Court trial

Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, second from left, arrives at the High Court in London (AP)

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, centre, arrives at the High Court, central London

First published in National News © by

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has lost his High Court battle with Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

Mr Berezovsky, 66, was seeking more than £3 billion damages after accusing the 45-year-old Russian billionaire businessman of blackmail, breach of trust and breach of contract. Mr Abramovich denied the allegations and denied that Mr Berezovsky was entitled to damages.

Mrs Justice Gloster ruled in Mr Abramovich's favour after a trial in London which started in October 2011 and ended in January this year.

The legal fight centred on deals done in Russia following the break-up of the Soviet Union two decades ago. Mr Berezovsky told the trial Mr Abramovich had "intimidated" him into selling shares in a Russian oil company at a fraction of their value. He also told the judge Mr Abramovich had broken a promise made during a deal relating to a Russian aluminium company. Mr Abramovich disputed the claims, saying they were "wholly without merit".

Both men "rose to enormous wealth and influence" in Russia in the 1990s as state-owned firms were privatised in the wake of the collapse of communism, the court heard. But Mr Berezovsky fled Russia, never to return, in late 2000, after falling out with president Vladimir Putin. He travelled initially to France, then settled in England. He claimed that he had been betrayed by his former friend and business partner.

Announcing her decision, Mrs Justice Gloster said she found Mr Abramovich "to be a truthful, and on the whole reliable, witness". She said she dismissed Mr Berezovsky's claims both in relation to Sibneft and in relation to RusAl "in their entirety".

Mrs Justice Gloster said that because of the nature of the factual issues "the case was one where, in the ultimate analysis, the court had to decide whether to believe Mr Berezovsky or Mr Abramovich". She said that because "both the Sibneft and the RusAl claims depended so very heavily on the oral evidence of Mr Berezovsky, the court needed to have a high degree of confidence in the quality of his evidence". The judge added: "That meant confidence not only in his ability to recollect things accurately, but also in his objectivity and truthfulness as a witness."

She said: "On my analysis of the entirety of the evidence, I found Mr Berezovsky an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes. At times the evidence which he gave was deliberately dishonest; sometimes he was clearly making his evidence up as he went along in response to the perceived difficulty in answering the questions in a manner consistent with his case; at other times, I gained the impression that he was not necessarily being deliberately dishonest, but had deluded himself into believing his own version of events.

"On occasions he tried to avoid answering questions by making long and irrelevant speeches, or by professing to have forgotten facts which he had been happy to record in his pleadings or witness statements. He embroidered and supplemented statements in his witness statements, or directly contradicted them."

Mr Berezovsky spoke to reporters in Russian as he walked out of the courtroom. Translated into English by a bystander, he said: "A legal decision cannot rewrite history. History happened." Asked how he was feeling, he said in English: "Perfect."

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