London judge rules in favour of Russian billionaire Abramovich, calling his foe Berezovsky an unreliable witness. A disappointed Berezovsky accuses the judge of rewriting Russian history and is considering appealing.
LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (AUGUST 31, 2012) (REUTERS) -Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich emerged victorious on Friday (August 31) from a long and hugely expensive legal battle with his former friend Boris Berezovsky that laid bare the murky dealings behind the post-Soviet carve-up of Russia's vast natural resources.
Judge Elizabeth Gloster told a packed London courtroom that she had found Berezovsky to be an "unimpressive and inherently unreliable witness" who would say "almost anything to support his case".
In comparison, Abramovich - a businessman known in Britain for his ownership of Chelsea soccer club - was described as a "truthful and on the whole reliable witness".
Leaving the court, Berezovsky told a crowd of waiting reporters: "I (am) absolutely amazed at what happened today. I (am) surprised completely and particularly because Lady Gloster took (the) responsibility to rewrite Russian history."
He accused his former friend of being the one who had not told the truth in court.
"Everything what (was) presented by Abramovich in court was lies. Everything. Starting from the fact that we haven't been partners. It's well known in all (the) business community," he said.
Berezovsky, a fast-talking former mathematician who became a Kremlin powerbroker under the late President Boris Yeltsin only to fall foul of Vladimir Putin, had accused Abramovich of using the threat of Kremlin retribution to intimidate him into selling assets at a knockdown price.
Abramovich, the world's 68th richest man with a $12.1 billion fortune, had denied the accusations and said he merely paid Berezovsky for political cover and protection - known in Russian slang as "krysha" or "roof".
"There was a marked contrast between the manner in which Mr Berezovsky gave his evidence and that in which Mr Abramovich did so," the judge said as she delivered her ruling to an expressionless Berezovsky.
Berezovsky later told reporters that he sometimes had the impression that Putin himself had written the judgement.
Berezovsky said he no longer had strong faith in the British legal system.
"I don't want to say that I changed completely my mind, but I need to analyse what happened," he said.
He is now considering whether to appeal or not.
The titanic legal battle had provided rich media pickings ever since a tussle broke out between the two tycoons in 2007.
The case captivated the legal industry in Britain, whose globally respected, tradition-bound courts have become the venue of choice for rich Russians to sue each other.
Many Russian companies, especially those with foreign involvement, include in contracts a clause that any litigation must be heard London. Underlying this is a deep distrust of the Russian judicial system.
Abramovich was not in court to hear the verdict and his team of lawyers merely smiled as the judge read out her lengthy ruling.
Later Abramovich's legal team issued a statement on his behalf.
"We are pleased that the judge has firmly rejected all such allegations and has described Mr Abramovich as a truthful and frank witness who showed a responsible and honest approach when giving evidence in this case....Mr Abramovich has always had great faith in the fairness of the English legal system and is both pleased and grateful for today's outcome. He stated from the outset that there was no merit to the allegations made by Mr Berezovsky, and this position has now been comprehensively vindicated by the court," the statement said.