Judge to decide Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich litigation case

Feuding oligarchs’ case centres around Berezovsky claiming his ex-oil firm partner and Chelsea owner cheated him out of $5bn

The biggest private litigation battle in British legal history is to be decided on Friday when the high court passes judgment in the case of the feuding Russian businessmen Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich.

Mrs Justice Gloster will read her judgment in the case at 10.30am in London’s Rolls Building, the new commercial wing of the high court.

She is due to speak for an hour, with both oligarchs, their bodyguards, and entourages expected in court to hear the result.

Berezovsky, the former Kremlin insider turned bitter critic of Vladimir Putin, claims that Abramovich cheated him out of more than $5bn (£3.2bn). Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea FC, who remains on good terms with President Putin, says he doesn’t owe Berezovsky anything.

The case stems from Russia’s murky 1990s, and Boris Yeltsin’s controversial privatisation programme, which saw the creation in 1995 of the oil firm Sibneft. Berezovsky says he and Abramovich were partners in Sibneft, later sold to Gazprom for $13bn; Abramovich insists he merely retained Berezovsky because of his top-level Kremlin contacts and influence with Yeltsin.

The case heard last autumn was one of the most colourful in high court history. Both oligarchs gave evidence – Abramovich speaking in Russian. The two men pointedly ignored each other in the corridors. The hearing was a study in contrasts, with Berezovsky outspoken and pugnacious in the witness box, and Abramovich low-key and cautious.

The multimillion litigation is good news for City lawyers, and is the latest in a string of Russian and international disputes that have ended up in the high court. Jonathan Sumption QC, now a UK supreme court justice, acted for Abramovich, earning a fee rumoured to be over £1m.

Berezovsky’s lead barrister is Laurence Rabinowitz QC.

The judgment will be published on the judicial website, immediately after the judge has risen.

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