Berezovsky Asked to Detail Case

ReutersBerezovsky, escorted by a bodyguard, arriving at a London court on Monday.
LONDON Roman Abramovich's lawyer told a London court Monday that Boris Berezovsky must be more specific about allegations of threats in a lawsuit over the sale of Berezovsky's Sibneft shares.

Berezovsky, who has asylum in Britain, claims in the suit that Abramovich used "threats and intimidation" to force him to sell shares in the oil company at a fraction of their value. Abramovich, 41, says no threats were made.

The latest version of the lawsuit does not say exactly when the threats took place, said Abramovich's lawyer, Andrew Popplewell. The claim "simply doesn't identify when, where, what was said, and who was present," Popplewell said. Monday's hearing at London's High Court was called to amend details of the claim before a trial.

Abramovich is the second-richest man in Britain, with a fortune worth ?11.7 billion ($23 billion), The Sunday Times newspaper said. Berezovsky, who was No. 123 on the Times list with ?667 million, was convicted by a Russian court in absentia in November on embezzlement charges.

Berezovsky, 62, claims in the suit that Abramovich told him that the Russian government would take the shares if he did not agree to sell them. He also claims that he was told that an imprisoned business associate and friend, Nikolai Glushkov, would be freed if Berezovsky complied. As a result, Berezovsky sold him his 50 percent holding in the oil company, depriving him of the possibility of making $4 billion at a later stage, he claims. In 2005, Abramovich sold Sibneft to Gazprom for $13.1 billion.

"There is a whole world of difference between a threat and a warning," Popplewell said Monday. He said his client "was not the Russian government."

With the information available, Popplewell plans to make a "general denial" to "these vague allegations." With more information he could apply to have the case dismissed, he said.