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updated: 8/31/2012 6:17 AM

Russian tycoon loses battle of billionaires

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  • Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky arrives at the high court in London, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. Berezovsky lost a High Court battle against Roman Abramovich in a multibillion-dollar legal battle waged between the two Russian tycoons in a London courtroom.

      Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky arrives at the high court in London, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. Berezovsky lost a High Court battle against Roman Abramovich in a multibillion-dollar legal battle waged between the two Russian tycoons in a London courtroom.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

LONDON -- Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has lost his multibillion-dollar legal battle against fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich in a London courtroom.

Judge Elizabeth Gloster ruled the 66-year-old self-exiled tycoon was not as reliable as a witness as the 45-year-old Abramovich, the billionaire owner of the Chelsea soccer club.

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"The bottom line of my analysis of Mr. Berezovsky's credibility is that he would have said almost anything to support his case ," Gloster said in her judgment.

Berezovsky, a former Kremlin power broker, alleged that Abramovich, who he called his protege, had betrayed and intimidated him into selling his stakes in the Russian oil company Sibneft vastly beneath their value.

Berezovsky, who appeared Friday in court, alleged blackmail and breach of contract and was seeking more than 3 billion pounds ($4.8 billion) in damages.

Abramovich had denied the allegations.

Gloster wrote that she "could not excuse the extent of Mr. Berezovsky's deviations from his previous case as presented in his pleadings and witness statements. His `I blame my lawyers" excuse was not convincing. "

"Mr. Berezovsky's evidence frequently could not be relied upon, where it differed from that of Mr. Abramovich, or other witnesses. I regret to say that," she added.

On the contrary, the judge said found "Abramovich to be a truthful, and on the whole reliable, witness."

The case had sparked broad interest because of its focus on the two oligarchs' personal, as well as business, relationship in the chaotic days of post-Soviet Russia. They were said to have become friends after meeting on a private cruise in the Caribbean, built a business empire together, but parted bitterly when their fortunes were reversed.

Berezovsky, a mathematician-turned-Mercedes dealer, amassed his wealth during Russia's privatization of state assets in the early 1990s. In return for backing former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, he gained powerful political connections and access to valuable assets at very low prices.

Berezovsky says he mentored the younger Abramovich, treated him like a son, and founded Sibneft with him and a third partner. Berezovsky claimed that the friendship faltered when he fell out with Putin, at which point Abramovich "intimidated" him into selling his Sibneft shares -- causing him losses of almost $6 billion.

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