Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich case background: Salubrious lives of the self-made Russian tycoons who are no longer ‘friends’
BORIS Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich traded accusations and gave onlookers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the super-rich during a three-month trial thought to have cost tens of millions of pounds in legal fees.
They were escorted by bodyguards and sat in either corner of the courtroom during attended hearings – one never speaking to the other.
The judge heard how Mr Abramovich once bought a businessman a plane as a thank-you present and how Mr Berezovsky “would not have lived long on … one million dollars”.
Mr Berezovsky told the court he was born in Moscow, studied mechanics and mathematics and became an academic.
He began working as a designer for Russian state car maker AvtoVAZ in the 1970s, went into business in the 1980s, started a political career in the 1990s, then went into “self-imposed exile” in 2000 following a fall-out with president Vladimir Putin.
Mr Abramovich’s lawyers said Mr Berezovsky was a “power broker” and a “highly controversial figure” in Russian politics in the 1990s. They said Mr Berezovsky agreed to provide “protection or [in Russian] ‘krysha’” and Mr Abramovich’s companies paid Mr Berezovsky “$2 billion” between 1995 and 2002 for services as a “political godfather”.
By the late 1990s, Mr Berezovsky’s personal expenses were met by Mr Abramovich’s companies, the judge heard.
Lawyers said they were expenses on an “exuberant scale” – funding “palaces in France”, “private aircraft”, “jewellery for his girlfriend” and “valuable paintings”.
They said a woman had once delivered “five million in dollar bills” to Mr Berezovsky – an allegation Mr Berezovsky denied. Mr Abramovich’s lawyers said Mr Berezovsky had a “lively sense of his own importance” and some of his actions appeared to conform to the “classic psychology of the political exile”.
The judge was told that the two men first met on a Caribbean cruise in 1994, when Mr Abramovich was 28.
Mr Abramovich was trading in oil and had the idea of creating a “vertically-integrated” oil company.
His lawyers said Mr Berezovsky saw the plan as “offering the opportunity for great wealth”.
Mr Abramovich told how he left school at 16, worked as a mechanic and began his business career selling plastic toys. He said he also served in the army and studied law. He said he had “never aspired to be a public figure”.
In a witness statement, he outlined his business career and referred to his “acquisition” of Chelsea FC, in 2003, in a section headed “political and charitable” activities.
Mr Abramovich told the court that his purchase of Chelsea “impacted” his way of life “significantly” and was a “turning point”.
Mr Abramovich said he “felt a strong emotional bond” to Mr Berezovsky but “hesitated to call him a former ‘friend”’.
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