Russia's Berezovsky tells UK court: 'I am not corrupt'

6th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky on Wednesday rejected allegations he was corrupt, as he gave evidence in his $5 billion dollar London court battle against Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

A London court heard how he used his links to the Kremlin in the post-Soviet years to push for the creation of energy company Sibneft, formed from privatised state assets, but he insisted this was not evidence he was corrupt.

"I am not corrupt," Berezovsky, 65, said in response to questioning from Abramovich's lawyer Jonathan Sumption at the Commercial Court in London. "I didn't corrupt anybody."

Berezovsky, an outspoken Kremlin critic, is suing Abramovich, 44, for more than $5 billion (3.8 billion euros), claiming that he betrayed him after the older oligarch fell out with then-president Vladimir Putin and was forced to flee Russia.

He claims Abramovich intimidated him into selling his shares from the oil company, which the two men had purchased together, at a fraction of their value.

Abramovich is also accused of breach of trust and breach of contract in the trial, which started this week and is expected to last more than two months.

He denies the allegations and disputes that "oral agreements" were made.

Abramovich was in court to hear the man described as his "political godfather", who allegedly helped in succeed in business, give evidence.

The boss of the Premier League football club was accompanied to the court by a large entourage of lawyers and bodyguards.

Giving evidence in the packed courtroom Wednesday, Berezovsky spoke about the creation of Sibneft: "I do not want to give the impression that I was not interested in business at all. I was interested in business -- a lot."

But he argued that the main reason for pushing to create Sibneft was as a funding stream for the television channel ORT, in which he was a shareholder, as he believed the broadcaster could support democracy in Russia.

He said he wanted to "create political stability using my opportunity in mass media."

But, in often heated exchanges, Sumption accused him of striking a deal with election officials whereby his media company would support the re-election of then president Boris Yeltsin in exchange for the Kremlin backing his business ventures.

"That's exactly what you did in relation to Sibneft in 1995, is it not?" the lawyer said, asking him if it would fair to describe the situation as corrupt.

"Definitely not," Berezovsky shot back.

© 2011 AFP

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