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The self-exiled business tycoon suffered a defeat in the struggle against another oligarch in the Berezovsky vs. Abramovich trial. The experts believe that Boris Berezovsky failed to politicize the trial and talk foreign investors from running any business in Russia. However, according to many Russian experts, Russia continues to sustain some loses to the country’s image, because during the court hearings some dark aspects in the construction of Russian capitalism were exposed.
Last Friday the London High Court turned down a lawsuit, which business tycoon Boris Berezovsky filed against owner of the English Premier League’s football club Chelsea Roman Abramovich. Berezovsky accused Abramovich that the latter forced him to sell his Sibneft stake and a share in Rusal at the understated price. Berezovsky demanded paying 5.5 billion dollars to him as a compensation, but the court found the arguments, which the plaintiff produced, unconvincing. The judge found Berezovsky’s testimony contradictory and not deserving any trust.
The analysts believe that Boris Berezovsky’s dubious reputation also influenced the outcome of the court case. “Berezovsky was seeking to speculate on the geopolitical situation without any grounds, despite the fact that Putin’s rule ousted him from the country and made him sell his whole business in the country,” the Kommersant daily quoted partner of the law company White & Case Grigory Chernyshov as saying. He explained Berezovsky’s loss in the trial by the fact that a bulk of evidence is based on his own testimony, the true nature of which the court took in a quite critical way, and by the pledge, which was exposed to pay some percentage from the sum won in this court case to several witnesses.
“Berezovsky, who was omnipotent some time ago, possessed the stakes in Sibneft and Rusal in a so secret way that when his political influence ended, he failed to prove the fact of possession and remained without money in his old years,” the Vedomosti daily reported.
“Actually Berezovsky has lost the case over a very simple circumstance: he did too much on the basis of “trust”, particularly oral agreements,” the information and political channel Polit.ru reported. “It was not done in the European style and the judge can be easily understood. Any deal in Europe had been documented so, that one could not have put it in doubt and it could have always been highly probable to prove, who had defrauded someone. By all appearances, Berezovsky could hope only for one thing: the sale of the image of “a decent businessman, who was cheated by bloody executor Putin” to the public and the court eventually. He failed to sell this image after all,” the channel Polit.ru reported.
Several experts noted that Berezovsky’s attempts to give the political underpinning to the trial and talk foreign investors from running any business in Russia failed, and Moscow has won in this issue.
“Berezovsky’s representatives have taken numerous attempts to badmouth the Russian government and the president and claimed that it is impossible to run business in Russia. Luckily, they failed to do it. I believe that this court verdict will make it possible for foreign investors to be less concerned over making investments in Russia,” the RBC daily quoted lawyer of the Moscow law bar Klishin & Partners, Prof. of the Moscow State University of International Relations Andrei Shugayev as saying.
Berezovsky failed to politicise this trial. The court remained unbiased and dealt only with the business aspect of this case. It can be said with confidence that not only Abramovich, but also the Russian government, had won the trial, the newspaper cited head for civil fraud of the law company Withers Stephen Ross as saying.
“It would have been better, if they had litigated in Russia...It would have been more honestly for them and for our country. The money is earned and stolen here, so let them divide it here,” Vladimir Putin said last December in the capacity of the prime minister.
The trial did not bring any major pleasure to the Russian authorities. During the trial much dirty linen was washed in public in Russia and outside it. British judges had to look into specific Russian approaches to running business during the period of primary accumulation in the nineties of the previous century. Along with such terms of the thieves’ talk as ‘cover-up’ and other terms, the court learnt about corruption and criminal connections, which were specific of Russian business on the turn of the centuries.
“Thanks to this trial the whole world had to learn what the Russian governing system is like. All people learnt that billions are paid for the cover-up in Russia and how corruption is all-embracing that an auction can be staged and a share in the business of bandits can be bought and etc. The London High Court exposed all these criminal facts. This will have a very negative impact on Putin’s reputation and his associates and will continue to build up the unfavourable attitude of investors to Russian business,” political expert Dmitry Oreshkin stated.
“Russia, but not Berezovsky, lost most of all in this trial. All that was said at the trial, all this thieves’ slag from the nineties are the losses for the image of the country,” Deputy Chairman of the Russian Audit Chamber Vladimir Goreglyad believes.
Berezovsky’s failure at the trial is a dangerous legal instance, the Vedomosti daily reported. “This is so for the state bankers, who acquire secret stakes in the businesses for exchange to the credits. For the top managers, who have some secret interests in various businesses. The British court turned down to legalize these secret stakes,” the newspaper reported.
Berezovsky may be shouldered to pay all legal costs for the trial that are estimated at more than 100 million British pounds, that, according to some experts, can make him bankrupt. The exact sum of the legal claims, which Abramovich’s lawyers filed against Berezovsky, is unclear yet. Abramovich’s spokesman John Mann will demand from plaintiff Berezovsky to repay the court costs. He refrained from making the exact sum of these claims public yet.
The court verdict in favour of Abramovich may have an indirect influence on another high-profile case, which the London High Court is trying. This is Mikhail Chernoy’s lawsuit against Russian business tycoon Oleg Deripaska. These two cases are quite alike. Chernoy, who had run a business in Russia some time ago, fled the country and now made the claims to the main owner of the aluminium giant Rusal Oleg Deripaska, from whom he wants to take a compensation for the SUAL stake.
Moscow, September 3