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Roman Abramovich did not 'pull strings' of Putin, judge decides

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2012, 4:31am
 

Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich enjoyed "privileged access" to Russian President Vladimir Putin but held no significant influence over him, a British high court judge said.

Judge Elizabeth Gloster said that while the Russian billionaire had "very good relations" with the president, he had not been in a position to "manipulate" him.

The judge was publishing her ruling after rejecting Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky's claims against his compatriot last month after a four-month trial.

Berezovsky had accused Abramovich of blackmail, breach of trust and breach of contract, claiming the Chelsea owner had intimidated him into selling shares in the Russian oil company Sibneft.

But Gloster, ruling in favour of Abramovich, found Berezovsky to be an "unreliable witness".

In the full ruling she said: "It was clear from the evidence that, at the material times, Mr Abramovich enjoyed very good relations with President Putin and others in power at the Kremlin.

"It was also clear that Mr Abramovich had privileged access to President Putin, in the sense that he could arrange meetings and discuss matters with him." But she said he had not been in a position to "pull the presidential strings".

She said: "There was no evidential basis supporting the contention that Mr Abramovich was in a position to manipulate, or otherwise influence, President Putin, or officers in his administration, to exercise their powers in such a way as to enable Mr Abramovich to achieve his own commercial goals.

"I am prepared to assume that, on occasion, President Putin may have taken his views into account when making decisions, but the suggestion that Mr Abramovich was in a position to pull the presidential strings was not borne out by the evidence."

The judge described Abramovich as a "truthful" and "on the whole reliable" witness who gave "careful and thoughtful answers" under cross-examination.

Berezovsky, on the other hand, was branded "an unimpressive and inherently unreliable witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes".

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