CoA rejects Abramovich’s bid to have oligarch case thrown out

The Court of Appeal has refused to strike out a multibillion pound claim brought by self-exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky against Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich

The ruling gives a win to Addleshaw Goddard which is acting for Berezovksy on a conditional fee agreement with partner Mark Hastings instructing One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC.

Abramovich’s counsel – Brick Court’s Andrew Popplewell QC, who was instructed by Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom partner Paul Mitchard QC – told the CoA that the claim should be struck out on the basis that it had no real chance of success.

In March last year, Mr Justice Coleman ruled that the claim should continue, stating that it was “impossible to say that this claim has no real prospect of success…” (31 March 2010).

Delivering his judgment in the CoA Lord Justice Laws upheld the decision, stating: “Since this is almost certainly the last time when this court will consider a judgment of Sir Anthony’s [Coleman J] it’s appropriate to say that we’re lost in admiration at the way he’s marshalled the numerous issues and disposed of them in a way with which – save in one minor respect – this court finds itself in entire agreement”.

The long-running dispute between the former business partners is building up to an epic High Court showdown in October.

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.

Abramovich disputes this and argues that in fact 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.

The CoA was unanimous in its ruling, with Lord Justice Longmore delivering the substantive judgment and Lord Justices Burnton and Laws agreeing.