Berezovsky Lawsuit at High Court

LONDON — A $2 billion lawsuit brought by self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky against his former business partner, Roman Abramovich, reached the High Court in London on Friday.

Berezovsky, who was granted asylum in Britain in 2003, claims that Abramovich, acting in concert with President Vladimir Putin, used threats of state confiscation to force Berezovsky and a partner, the late Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, to sell their interests in oil firm Sibneft, television channel ORT and aluminum producer RusAl at far below market value.

"Abramovich undertook a course of conduct in which he made and was a party to explicit and implicit threats and intimidation" that were "intertwined with the Sibneft transaction," lawyers for Berezovsky said in the lawsuit.

Abramovich's lawyer, Andrew Popplewell, said at the High Court that the claims were unfounded, Agence France Presse reported. "The arguability of the claims depends wholly on oral conversations," he said.

Berezovsky was convicted by a Russian court in absentia in November on charges that he embezzled from state airline Aeroflot and was given six years in prison. He has dismissed the charges as "politically motivated."

From 2001 to 2003, Berezovsky sold Abramovich the Sibneft stake for $1.3 billion. In 2005 Abramovich sold Sibneft to state-run Gazprom for $13.1 billion. Berezovsky says in the suit that he lost as much as $4 billion.

Bloomberg, NYT