Deripaska Is Sued for $3Bln

LONDON -- Billionaire Oleg Deripaska owes former business partner Michael Cherney at least $3 billion after failing to honor an agreement concerning stakes in aluminum companies, lawyers for Cherney told a London court hearing.

Geoffrey Voss, a Cherney lawyer, outlined at a Wednesday hearing a 2001 business agreement that his client claims took place to exchange part of Siberian Aluminum for a future interest in Russian Aluminum, which later merged with rivals to create United Company RusAl.

Deripaska has said he was never in a partnership with Cherney "in any commercial sense of that word," Voss said, quoting from submissions by Deripaska's lawyers. "Mr. Deripaska has sought, because of his power and influence, to rewrite history," Voss said.

Deripaska's lawyers will reply to the claims by Uzbek-born Cherney, formerly known as Mikhail Chernoi, at a later hearing. He denies any wrongdoing in the case.

Voss also refuted claims by Deripaska's lawyers in court filings that Cherney's credibility is questionable because he is involved in organized crime, saying his client has never been prosecuted. A "serious" charge in Switzerland was dropped this year when a court ruled that the allegations were "founded on rumor with no substance to them," Voss said. "The bare facts are that Mr. Cherney has never been prosecuted to trial or convicted of any crime anywhere in the world."