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Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has drafted in former Herbert Smith senior partner David Gold to review witness statements associated with his legal battle with Boris Berezovksy.
Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom partner Paul Mitchard QC has been advising the Russian oligarch on the legal fight but Gold’s unexpected arrival in court on Monday raised questions about his role in advising Abramovich.
It is understood that Abramovich has spent around £45m on his legal team, which also includes Brick Court’s Jonathan Sumption QC.
Gold was instructed in February after the Court of Appeal refused to strike out the claim (23 April 2011). His involvement in the multi-billion pound case came in March just weeks after he launched litigation consultancy David Gold & Associates (31 January 2011).
However, sources close to the case said he was not running the litigation but instead reviewing witness statements for the defendant. “He’s there to review the witness statement and provide an alternative view,” a source said.
Berezovksy is understood to have spent in excess of £30m on his legal team, which includes Addleshaw Goddard and One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC. The firm has agreed to advise Berezovsky on a ‘no-win no-fee’ basis, meaning that with an uplift it could earn in excess of £50m from the case (8 November 2011).
At the heart of Berezovsky’s claims are allegations that Abramovich coerced him into selling his 21.5 per cent share in Russian oil company Sibneft at a significantly reduced price.
According to Berezovsky, in the 1990s the pair had teamed up with Georgia’s richest man, Arkadi ’Badri’ Patarkatsishvili, to buy Sibneft. They agreed that Abramovich would own half of the business while Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili would share the other half, with Abramovich holding their shares in trust.
Patarkatsishvili’s widow Inna Gudavadze-Patarkatsishvili is also involved in the case and has instructed Hogan Lovells partner Graham Huntley, who has instructed Serle Court’s Jonathan Adkin.
Abramovich denies the action against him and argues that any payment to Berezovksy, his former mentor, was in recognition of his “political assistance and protection” during the creation of Sibneft. He denies that Berezovsky or Patarkatsishvili ever had an interest in Sibneft.