Biggest British civil suit ends year later

Aug. 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM

LONDON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A British court awarded Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich $6.5 billion in a year-long lawsuit that pitted him against a former friend and business partner.

It was the biggest private court case in British legal history, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

Boris Berezovsky had sued Abramovich, accusing him of blackmailing him into selling his interest in oil and aluminum businesses they founded together.

Abramovich had countercharged that Berezovsky extorted money from him. Abramovich said he had paid $1.3 billion to buy Berezovsky's freedom after he lost political favor with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Telegraph said.

Central to the case were a number of meetings in 2000 in which the two men met with a third partner, Badri Patarkatsishvili, to discuss transferring their assets to the West, the report said.

Employees of Patarkatsishvili secretly recorded the first meeting, in Paris and Berezovsky later paid $50 million for the tape, it said.

At a second meeting, Berezovsky said, Abramovich told him Russian authorities would take his television station if he did not sell it and stop the pending release from jail of a close friend of Berezovsky.

Abramovich said that meeting never took place but the two men met at a French resort a few weeks later and agreed to a $1.3 billion payoff.

Berezovsky also said Abramovich had sold his 25 percent holding in aluminum conglomerate Rusal to Oleg Deripaska, who had connections to high-ranking British politicians. That meant Deripaska owned 75 percent of the company.

Berezovsky said he and his partner were forced to sell their remaining 25 percent interest for $457 million.

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