Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, was the mysterious courier who passed on a letter of apology from Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky to President Vladimir Putin, it has been claimed.
The revelation will be an extraordinary twist if proved true as the two oligarchs clashed in a multi-billion pound case in the High Court last year.
Mr Berezovsky (67), a self-exiled Kremlin critic, was found dead on the floor of his bathroom in Ascot, Berkshire, on March 23. He had a ligature around his neck.
Mr Putin's press spokesman said after Mr Berezovsky's death that several months earlier the tycoon had written a letter to him asking for forgiveness from his former protege and for permission to return to Russia.
Some of Mr Berezovsky's friends expressed doubt at the claim but the businessman's 23-year-old girlfriend, Katerina Sabirova, said this week that he did in fact send such a letter.
Sources have now told 'Vedomosti' newspaper and TV Rain in Moscow that it was Mr Abramovich who brought the letter to Moscow. When asked, Mr Abramovich's spokesman, John Mann, said: "I know the answer but we will not be commenting because this is a personal matter."
Mr Abramovich won a case against Mr Berezovsky after the latter had sought £3bn (€3.5bn) in damages in a dispute over stakes in oil giant Sibneft and the Rusal aluminium producer.
Mr Berezovsky fled to the UK in 2001 after falling out with Mr Putin and was later convicted of fraud in absentia in Russia. (© Daily Telegraph, London)