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Abramovich could not pull Putin strings: judge

20 september 2012, 15:55
Roman Abramovich. ©RIA Novosti
Roman Abramovich. ©RIA Novosti
Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich enjoyed "privileged access" to Russian President Vladimir Putin but held no significant influence over him, AFP reports citing a British high court judge.

Judge Elizabeth Gloster said that while the Russian billionaire had "very good relations" with the president, he had not had 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 following a four-month trial.

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

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

In the full ruling published Wednesday 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".

"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," she added.

"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 simply 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."

His evidence was at times "deliberately dishonest" while at other times he appeared to be "making his evidence up as he went along", the judge said.

"At other times, I gained the impression that he was not necessarily being deliberately dishonest, but had deluded himself into believing his own version of events," she added.

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