Friday 17 November 2017

Oligarch Berezovsky dead at 67 in suspected suicide

Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky has died
Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky has died

James Edgar in London

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has died at the age of 67. The exiled businessman, who last year lost a multibillion-pound British High Court fight with Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, was found dead at his home in Berkshire.

Lord Tim Bell, the advertising and PR executive, confirmed his death.

A spokesman for his company, Bell Pottinger, said Mr Berezovsky was found at his home in Ascot, Berkshire.

"His body was found by his bodyguard," he said.

"No other details are available at this time."

It was widely reported the former mathematics professor had taken his own life, but that was not officially confirmed. Mr Berezovsky was part of Boris Yeltsin's inner circle in the latter years of his presidency, and became deputy secretary of Russia's security council.

He acquired his fortune in the 1990s after the privatisation of state assets following the collapse of Soviet Communism.

The businessman survived a number of assassination attempts, including a bomb in his car that decapitated his chauffeur.

Mr Berezovsky emigrated to the UK in 2000 after falling out with President Vladimir Putin.

In fear of his life, he sought political asylum and moved to the south east of England, buying upmarket properties in Knightsbridge and Berkshire.

Mr Berezovsky ran up more than tens of millions of pounds in legal bills in less than two years after the court battle with Mr Abramovich.

He also built up legal costs totalling more than £250,000 (€293,000) just two months after becoming embroiled in a case at the same court with his former partner, Elena Gorbunova, who sat at Mr Berezovsky's side throughout much of his battle with Mr Abramovich.

Earlier this week, The Daily Telegraph reported that the Russian oligarch would attempt to sell 'Red Lenin', an Andy Warhol screen print valued at between £30,000 and £50,000 by Christie's.

The artwork sold on Wednesday for £133,875 including the buyer's premium, according to the auction house's website.

Last year, Mrs Justice Gloster dismissed a series of claims by Mr Berezovsky – who wanted more than £3bn damages – relating to deals done in Russia with Mr Abramovich.

In October, the judge was told by lawyers that Mr Berezovsky had agreed to pay £35m towards Mr Abramovich's legal costs in the wake of her ruling.

She was given no detail of the amount of costs run up by Mr Berezovsky.

But legal magazine The Lawyer said the case was thought to have generated "total fees" of more than £100m.

Mr Berezovsky had sued and accused Mr Abramovich of blackmail, breach of trust and breach of contract.

He said the billionaire Russian businessman had "intimidated" him into selling shares in a Russian oil company at a fraction of their value and broken a promise made during a deal relating to a Russian aluminium company.

Mr Abramovich said the claims had "no merit".

Mrs Justice Gloster ruled in Mr Abramovich's favour in August following a trial – staged in London between October 2011 and January – at which both men gave evidence.

The judge described Mr Berezovsky as an "unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness" but said she found Mr Abramovich to be a "truthful, and on the whole reliable, witness".

Last month, the High Court heard that Mr Berezovsky had run up over £250,000 in costs in his legal battle with Ms Gorbunova, which started in December.

Mr Justice Mann was given detail of the scale of lawyers' fees during a preliminary hearing and described the costs of the case as "lavish".

The judge said Ms Gorbunova, who had two children with Mr Berezovsky, was complaining that she had not been given millions promised by him. He said it was anticipated that Mr Berezovsky would "vigorously contest" Ms Gorbunova's claims.

Mr Justice Mann said she had been Mr Berezovsky's "long-time partner" until last year.

Thames Valley Police said they were investigating the unexplained death of a 67-year-old man.

A spokesman said: "Thames Valley Police have launched an investigation into the death of a 67-year-old man at a property in Ascot, Berkshire. "An inquiry is under way. The area around the property has been cordoned off to allow the investigation to take place. The investigation is at a very early stage and more details will be released when available."

© Telegraph

Irish Independent

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