Friday, August 31, 2012
Russia's Berezovsky loses UK battle with Abramovich
LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich won a court battle on Friday against former partner Boris Berezovsky, who sued him for $6 billion over claims he was intimidated into selling assets they acquired in the post-Soviet carve-up of Russia's vast natural resources.
"I found Mr. Berezovsky an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept," Judge Elizabeth Gloster told the courtroom, as Berezovsky sat expressionless in a grey suit, white shirt and no tie.
"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."
The ruling brings an end to a legal odyssey that stretched from the gilded corridors of the Kremlin to the offshore enclaves favoured by Russia's richest tycoons and finally to the modern, glass courtroom in London packed with lawyers and journalists.
Berezovsky, a fast-talking former mathematician who became a Kremlin powerbroker under late President Boris Yeltsin only to fall foul of Vladimir Putin, says Abramovich used the threat of Kremlin retribution to intimidate him into selling out of Russia's fourth biggest oil company, Sibneft, at a knockdown price.
Abramovich, the world's 68th richest man, with a $12.1 billion fortune, denies Berezovsky had an interest in the firm and says he merely paid Berezovsky for political cover and protection - known in Russian bandit slang as "krysha" or "roof".
Berezovsky also accused Abramovich of selling, without permission, his shares in aluminium producer RUSAL.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Steve Addison and Will Waterman)