Oligarch is one of these words.
Even if you didn’t know the meaning you would know that it has to be something unpleasant just by its appearance or cadence. Ogre is lurking around the environs of the word as is garrotte and lig. Arch is there too, as in arch enemy.
You just know that legal proceedings billed as the “Battle of the Oligarchs” is not going to be a fraternal affair in the least troubled by compromise or esprit de coer.
It’s going to be jealous, vindictive and rebarbative.
As Tom Peck writes in the Independent:
Perhaps the most captivating element of all in the bitter dispute between Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich and his former friend, the wanted businessman and politician Boris Berezovsky, was its promise to shed light on the shadowy gangland world of mid-90s Russia.
That light burst into brilliant luminescence as Britain’s leading barrister, Jonathan Sumption QC – rumoured to be receiving an eight-figure fee – delivered his opening arguments in defence of Mr Abramovich.
The Chelsea owner, worth an estimated £8.6bn, and his former mentor Mr Berezovsky, whose fortune totals a meagre £500m, again sat on opposite sides of the courtroom, surrounded by lawyers, as Mr Sumption – a medieval historian in his spare time – said conditions in Russia after the collapse of communism “have not been seen in this country since the 15th century”.
He told Mrs Justice Gloster that it was “not easy” for lawyers to understand those “quite extraordinary conditions” but added: “Your Ladyship must have read Shakespeare.”
This is Antonio v Shylock, MacBeth v Duncan, Hamlet (deceased) v Claudius.
It’s also Rasputin v the Tsar.
Thugs with money.
Lots of it.
“There was no rule of law,” he said. “Police were corrupt. The courts were unpredictable at best – at worst open to manipulation by major political or economic interest groups.
“Nobody could go into business without access to political power. If you didn’t have political power yourself, you needed access to a godfather who did.”
Mr Abramovich is being sued by Mr Berezovsky – who alleges breach of trust and breach of contract over the oil firm Sibneft and is claiming more than £3.2bn in damages*. On Monday Mr Berezovsky’s barrister, Lawrence Rabinowitz QC, portrayed the two oligarchs as friends and equal partners in Sibneft, before Mr Abramovich intimidated him into selling his shares at a knockdown price or face their being seized by the Kremlin.
The tale told by Mr Sumption yesterday was markedly different. He said Mr Berezovsky was paid millions of pounds by businesses controlled by Mr Abramovich for his services as a “political godfather”.
“Mr Berezovsky was a highly controversial figure in Russian politics in the 1990s,” he said. “Boris Berezovsky was a power broker.”
Mr Berezovsky’s lawyers shook their heads as Mr Sumption described him as a man with no knowledge or interest in the oil business – his only significant contribution to Sibneft being securing for Mr Abramovich valuable political introductions and his influence over then President Boris Yeltsin via his daughter Tatyana Yumasheva and her husband, Mr Yeltsin’s chief of staff.
*Berezovsky claims that Abramovich was forced to sell his share Sibneft for a “knock down price”.
That was done in 2005 and was the biggest single transaction in Russian history at £7.5 billion.
I can never hear the name Putin without thinking of “putrid”.
The case continues….
Filed under: Current Events, Money | Tagged: boris berezovsky, chelsea, jonathan sumption, lawrence rabinowitz, roman abramovich, sibneft, vladimir putin | 1 Comment »