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27 Mar, 2008 21:15

Berezovsky sues Abramovich over ‘fire sale’

Two Russian tycoons are about to go head-to-head in a legal battle in London. The self-exiled Boris Berezovsky, who's a wanted man in Russia, has filed a lawsuit against business magnate Roman Abramovich. In the suit, Berezovsky claims the owner of Chelse

Berezovsky claims that his one-time protégé, Abramovich, used intimidation to force him to sell his stakes in the oil company Sibneft, Russian Aluminium and the television channel ORT for a fraction of their market value.
The High Court in London acknowledged receiving the suit. Now Russia’s newspaper, Vedomosti, says it has got hold of the details of the documents.

“The first steps Berezovsky made last year, when he said that he intended to file a lawsuit. He filed it in the High Court of Justice in the UK. Last fall he personally handed the lawsuit to Roman Abromovich in a London boutique. Ever since then we’ve been waiting for him to provide a full detailed list of claims to court. We can see the date right there – he filed this report on January 8. In fact, it’s not that hard to obtain that document,” Dmitry Simakov, Deputy Editor-In-Chief, Vedomosti Newspaper, said.
Indeed, the claims are in the public domain. In the suit Berezovsky claims that he was forced to sell his stake in the three businesses to Abramovich, following a meeting he says took place in the south of France in 2000.

Berezovsky made nearly $US 1 billion dollars from the sale, but he argues the companies were worth at least five times that amount.
What is known for a fact is that the shares were sold but there is still no official papers showing, who sold the shares to whom.

“I mean it’s clear that there is a property dispute between the two parties I don’t think that anyone disputes it. The question is whether he was forced to sell them as he claims. How justified are his reasons? Some might say that he’s doing it for a political reason. Mr Berezovsky is no doubt going to say that he has a property interest that to protect and he hasn’t been able to do it until now because he wasn’t able to serve his claim,” Drew Holiner, Barrister said.
Abramovich, one of the world’s 50 wealthiest men, is likely to leave the issue with his lawyers as there is little love lost between the two former partners.

Whereas for Berezovsky, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes magazine to be $US 1.1 billion, it is not the first court case he has been involved in.

He’s long been wanted in Russia on a number of charges. And in 2007, Russia asked for a nine-year prison sentence for Berezovsky, who had been tried in absentia on charges of embezzling money from Russian airline Aeroflot in the 1990s.

And it looks like this is the beginning of another long battle.