Business, Finance & Economics

Russian billionaire Abramovich wins world's biggest private lawsuit

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Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky at the High Court in London amid his multimillion dollar breach-of-contract case against oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Credit:

Peter Macdiarmid

Two of Russia's most powerful businessmen battled each other in the worlds biggest lawsuit that exposed the murky and gangster-like mentality of Russia's post-Soviet business culture. 

Roman Abramovich won the suit seeking roughly $6.8 billion against his rival and former-partner, Boris Berezovsky, who claims Abramovich intimidated him into selling shares in two Russian oil and metal companies for far less than they were worth, reports Bloomberg.

Billed as the world’s largest private lawsuit, the ruling ended with a stunning victory for Abramovich and a harsh repudiation for Berezovsky, reports the New York Times.

Judge Elizabeth Gloser had some harsh words for Berezovsky, characterizing him as an unreliable and dishonest witness. 

“I found Mr. Berezovsky an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept,” the New York Times quotes Gloser as saying.

“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.”

Abramovich, who Reuters reports is worth a $12.1 billion fortune, denied he blackmailed Berezovsky and instead said he merely paid for political cover and protection - known in Russian slang as "krysha" or "roof".

The trial took place in London where both men have homes. Both Russians are infamous in London business circles. Abramovich is the owner of the popular Chelsea Football club and Berezovsky fled to London in 2000 after falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The lawsuit exposed the lifestyles of Russia's super-rich oligarchs. The BBC reports that Berezovsky called Abramovich a "gangster" while Abramovich responded by saying there were times when Berezovsky was "something of a megalomaniac".

The judge has not yet ruled on whether or not Berezovsky will be left holding the massive bill for Abramovich's legal fees.