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Russian oil tycoon wins court battle in London

Published: September 1, 2012 | 8:21 am
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LONDON — Self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky lost his multibillion-dollar legal battle against fellow Russian mogul Roman Abramovich on Friday after a British judge ruled that he didn’t tell the truth in the clash over vast oil wealth.

The case in London’s High Court sparked broad interest because of its focus on the two oligarchs’ personal and business relationship in the chaotic days of post-Soviet Russia. The weeks of testimony included juicy details about their jet-set lifestyles that included yachts, luxury vacations and high-roller spending.

The 64-year-old Berezovsky, a former Kremlin power broker who fell out with Russian President Vladimir Putin, alleged that Abramovich had betrayed and intimidated him into selling his stakes in the Russian oil company Sibneft vastly beneath their true value.

Berezovsky had sought more than $5.6 billion in damages.

Abramovich had denied the charges.

On Friday, Judge Elizabeth Gloster scathingly dismissed Berezovsky’s case, calling him “an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be molded to suit his current purposes.”

In contrast, she found the 45-year-old Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, to be “a truthful, and on the whole reliable, witness.”

Berezovsky, who had alleged blackmail and breach of contract, shook his head in court Friday as his defeat became clear. Abramovich did not attend.

A statement issued by Abramovich’s representatives said his position had been “comprehensively vindicated by the court.”

A mathematician-turned-Mercedes dealer, Berezovsky amassed his wealth during Russia’s privatization of state assets in the early 1990s.

In return for backing former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, he gained powerful political connections and opportunities to buy state assets at knockdown prices.

Berezovsky said he mentored Abramovich, treating him like a son, and founded Sibneft with him and a third partner. Berezovsky claimed that the friendship faltered when he fell out with Putin, at which point Abramovich “intimidated” him into selling his Sibneft shares, at a loss of almost $6 billion.

Berezovsky said he hadn’t decided whether to appeal.

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