Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has lost his High Court battle with former business partner and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.
Mr Berezovsky, 66, was seeking more than £3 billion damages after accusing the 45-year-old Russian billionaire of:
- Breach of trust
- Breach of contract
Mr Abramovich denied the allegations and Mrs Justice Gloster ruled in the Chelsea football club owner's favour today after the biggest private litigation battle in legal history.
Speaking outside court, Mr Berezovsky said:
The Chelsea football club owner released a statement saying he was "pleased" by today's decision.
Mrs Justice Gloster said she found Mr Abramovich "to be a truthful, and on the whole reliable, witness". She also said she dismissed Mr Berezovsky's claims both in relation to Sibneft and in relation to RusAl "in their entirety".
The legal fight centred on deals done following the break-up of the Soviet Union two decades ago.
Mr Berezovsky told the trial that Mr Abramovich had "intimidated" him into selling shares in a Russian oil company at a fraction of their value. Mr Abramovich disputed the claim.
Both men "rose to enormous wealth and influence" in Russia in the 1990s as state-owned firms were privatised in the wake of the collapse of communism, the court heard.
But Mr Berezovsky fled Russia in late 2000, after falling out with President Vladimir Putin. He travelled initially to France, then settled in England.
During the trial, Laurence Rabinowitz QC, for Mr Berezovsky, said both men had become friends after working together to acquire Russian oil company Sibneft.
They persuaded then Russian president Boris Yeltsin to "bring about the privatisation of Sibneft and its disposal into their hands", said Mr Rabinowitz.
But Mr Abramovich had intimidated Mr Berezovsky and his colleague into selling their ownership interest in Sibneft at a "massive undervalue" and put Mr Berezovsky "in fear for the life of his friend and the risk that his property might be expropriated", said the QC.
Jonathan Sumption QC, for Mr Abramovich, said Mr Berezovsky was paid millions of pounds by businesses controlled by Mr Abramovich for his services as a "political godfather".
Mr Sumption added that while Mr Berezovsky's contribution had been "important, indeed... indispensable" he had not "contributed a single cent" to acquiring or building up Sibneft, nor made any managerial contribution.