Rabinowitz QC pulls out of Berezovsky case

Addleshaw Goddard is on the hunt for a top-notch silk to lead the second tranche of the Boris Berezovsky proceedings after One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC withdrew from the case.

Rabinowitz has been acting for the exiled Russian oligarch during his commercial court battle with Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, but sources close to the case say he has now withdrawn due to prior diary commitments.

Addleshaws partner Mark Hastings, who is leading the Chancery proceedings for Berezovsky, is believed to be lining up heavyweight counsel with Brick Court Chambers in the frame to secure the mandate.

The case pitches Berezovsky against three defendants, Russian metal magnate Vasily Anisimov, the estate of Arkady “Badri” Patarkatsishvili, formerly Georgia’s richest man, and investment company Salford Capital Partners.

It is understood the parties are plotting to build top-flight legal teams which they are desperate to keep under wraps in the build up to the tense October trial. “The Russians want a proper punch up, they want to go to court,” a source close to the case said. “There is no way these cases will settle.”

Hogan Lovells partner Graham Huntley, who is representing the Patarkatsishvili parties, is believed to have secured a silk to lead Serle Court’s Jonathan Adkin.

Meanwhile, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Ian Terry, who is acting for Anisimov, is hoping that 3 Verulam Buildings’ Ali Malek QC and Sonya Tolaney QC will continue to act as counsel. However Tolaney is engaged on another trial, although that case hearing is expected to be delayed.

Barristers are looking to break into the lucrative world of Russian litigation because parties are so firmly opposed and are cash rich. Brief fees for Russian cases are on the rise on the back of speculation about how much Jonathan Sumption QC, also of Brick Court, secured for his work for Abramovich.

Sumption, who earlier this month was sworn into the Supreme Court, is widely thought to have secured a fee upwards of £3m (6 April 2011).

One lawyer said: “The huge fees are partly because of the Sumption effect, but also because barristers know the Russians will pay and these cases are huge.”

The October battle is focused on allegations by Berezovsky that significant proportions of assets and funds worth between $2bn and $3bn (£1.3bn and £1.9bn) held by the Patarkatsishvili estate, or a large number of offshore trusts and funds set up by Patarkatsishvili, as well as assets held by Anisimov, are in fact beneficially part-owned by Berezovsky.

Berezovsky alleges that Patarkatsishvili was his joint venture partner and therefore either holds Berezovsky’s assets or is liable for Patarkatsishvili’s alleged negligence or breach of trust in dissipating assets to others, including Anisimov.