Berezovsky 'blackmailed' by Abramovich: girlfriend

19th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Roman Abramovich "blackmailed" fellow Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky into selling shares at a discount price, a London court heard Wednesday.

Berezovsky, 65, who is suing Abramovich, branded him a "bastard" after the Chelsea Football Club owner forced him into selling shares in Russian oil giant Sibneft and a number of other companies, Berezovsky's girlfriend said in a witness statement.

Elena Gorbunova, who said she had been Berezovsky's "long-standing partner" since the early 1990s, described in a written statement the aftermath of a meeting between the two businessmen on the French Riviera in 2000.

Gorbunova said she remembered that after the meeting, Berezovsky told her that Abramovich had "blackmailed" him into relinquishing his interests in a company.

"I remember that after the meeting, Boris was outraged," Gorbunova said.

"I remember Boris saying that Roman was a bastard. Boris never wanted to see him again."

The exiled Russian oligarch is suing Abramovich, 44, for breach of trust and breach of contract and is seeking £3 billion (3.4 billion euros, $4.7 billion) in damages at a commercial court trial.

Berezovsky alleges Abramovich "intimidated" him into selling shares in oil giant Sibneft for "a mere $1.3 billion" (£800 million, 917 million euros) -- "a fraction of their true worth".

Berezovsky claims the campaign of intimidation began after the elder tycoon fell out with Russia's then-president Vladimir Putin and was forced to flee to Britain in 2000.

Abramovich denies the allegations and denies Berezovsky is entitled to damages.

Abramovich maintains that he employed Berezovsky as a "political godfather" and not a business partner, and paid him millions of pounds for his services.

In her statement, Gorbunova said Berezovsky and the English Premier League club owner had been friends and holidayed together before their disagreement.

She added that she had been "good friends" with Abramovich's ex-wife Irina.

The hearing continues.

© 2011 AFP

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