Tuesday 21 November 2017

When oligarchs fall out: Berezovsky ‘betrayed’ by Chelsea owner Abromovich

Brian Farmer

A RUSSIAN oligarch who says he was "betrayed" by Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich and wants billions of pounds in compensation today told a London High Court judge: "I am not corrupt."

Boris Berezovsky, 65, is claiming, in a trial at the Commercial Court in London, that Russian businessman Mr Abramovich "intimidated" him into selling shares in Russian oil company Sibneft at a fraction of their value.

He is alleging breach of trust and breach of contract and claiming more than £3 billion in damages from Mr Abramovich.

Mr Abramovich denies the allegations, disputes that "oral agreements" were made and denies that Mr Berezovsky is entitled to damages.

Mr Berezovsky today started giving evidence to judge Mrs Justice Gloster as the trial, expected to last more than two months, entered its fourth day.

Mr Abramovich, 44, was in court.

"I am not corrupt," Mr Berezovsky told the court. "I didn't corrupt anybody."

He told the judge he was "against" corruption.

Questioned by Jonathan Sumption QC, for Mr Abramovich, Mr Berezovsky agreed that in the mid 1990s he was "one of the most politically-influential oligarchs in Russia".

Asked whether he thought a businessman like Mr Abramovich would have needed "political influence" - or the help of someone with influence - when building a business in Russia in the 1990s, Mr Berezovsky replied: "I don't think so. It depends on how smart he is."

Mr Berezovsky, who spoke in English but with the help of a Russian interpreter, said he had started a business "with no political influence".

Journalists were left with standing room only in the packed courtroom.

Mrs Justice Gloster told reporters: "There isn't a courtroom in the land that is big enough to accommodate all of you."

Mr Berezovsky denied that he had "fixed" an auction of Sibneft following privatisation.

"It is not fixed, definitely," he told the court. "I just find a way how to persuade..."

He added: "In my terminology it is not fixed."

Mr Berezovsky also denied putting "pressure" on the then Russian president, Boris Yeltsin.

"My way is not to make pressure," he said. "My way is to persuade and to explain why it is important to do."

The hearing continues.

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