MOSCOW, March 23 - RAPSI. Self-exiled Russian businessman and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky was found dead at his Surrey home at the age of 67, his son-in-law, Yegor Shuppe, announced on his Facebook page Saturday, writing simply: “Boris Berezovsky is dead.”
There has been no official confirmation of the report yet.
Andrei Borovkov, a lawyer representing Berezovsky’s interests in Russia was unable to confirm or deny his client’s death to RAPSI.
Russian federal investigators announced that in the case of an official confirmation of his death, the many criminal cases currently pending against him in his native country may be terminated, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin tweeted Saturday evening.
Life has not been easy for the tycoon for the past several years, as evidenced by his omnipresence at London’s High Court of Justice.
He has frequently found himself at both ends of a series of high-profile trials.
Berezovsky as plaintiff
His international notoriety exploded last summer when his civil suit against Russian businessman Roman Abramovich over a series of decade-old business deals floundered.
He had claimed approximately $5.5 billion in damages, but was left with nothing but the obligation to pay Abramovich’s legal costs, amounting to approximately £35 million. This sum was stacked on top of the legal fees owed by Berezovsky himself. That total remains under debate, but is thought to be around £138 million – an unprecedented amount in the UK.
Berezovsky filed two claims against Abramovich in connection with losses he allegedly accrued when business relations soured between the two parties.
In the aftermath of the lawsuit that had endured for upwards of five years, Berezovsky announced that with the judgment he had lost faith in the British justice system.
Shortly after the Abramovich defeat, Berezovsky withrew a law suit he had filed in the High Court against Metalloinvest co-owner Vasily Anisimov, whom he had initiated a lawsuit against in 2008 following Patarkatsishvili’s death. Berezovsky had initially claimed that he was entitled to part of Anisimov’s share of Metalloinvest, alleging that it was purchased using the proceeds from the sale of the 25% stake in RusAl he had claimed to have co-owned with Patarkatsishvili in the Abramovich suit.
At the same time, Berezovsky settled a $3 million dispute with Patarkatsishvili’s beneficiaries over allegations that he had transferred assets to his partner for fear that he would be unable to personally secure them.
Ultimately, however, Berezovsky was not able to support his allegations with any documentary evidence.
Berezovsky as defendant
Berezovsky frequently found himself on the other end of legal disputes as well.
Samara Region claim
In September 2012, the government of Russia’s Samara Region filed a claim to recover 989 million rubles ($31.7 million) that the oligarch had allegedly failed to pay up following a lower court’s order to do so.
Earlier, Russian prosecutors had discovered that in 1995, Berezovsky and his then-business partner Yuly Dubov conducted a series of thefts that proved damaging to the interests of the Samara Region. The investigation revealed that the region had sustained 58 million rubles in damages. The amount was later indexed for inflation and interest. In the end, the amount exceeded one billion rubles.
On the basis of a massive fraud scheme, a Russian court convicted Berezovsky in 2007, finding him jointly and severally liable with a co-defendant who had previously been sentenced to pay Aeroflot nearly 215 million rubles (approximately $7 million). By this point, Berezovsky had already had asylum status in the UK since 2003, and had not returned to Russia for years prior.
In 2011, Aeroflot sought an adjustment of the amount awarded, taking inflation into consideration, charging that the original award should be increased to upwards of 2 billion rubles. Aeroflot failed in its effort to serve Berezovsky and Glushkov with process. Still, a Russian court opted to move forward in absence of the defendants, and ultimately granted the inflation adjustment in full.
Aeroflot then initiated proceedings in the UK seeking enforcement of the Russian judgment.
The High Court refused, citing the principle of res judicata. According to the judgment, the Russian court had breached the legal principle prohibiting re-litigation of a claim that had already been adjudicated.
The High Court took issue with the point that no new facts had come to light prior to the launch of adjustment proceedings; that the 2007 Savelovsky judgment had assessed the amount of damages due Aeroflot and the adjustment proceedings seem to have arisen from the same cause of action. Furthermore, the High Court found that the court lacked appropriate precedent and that the adjustment proceedings could not have been anticipated by Berezovsky.
Last Thursday, Aeroflot vowed to appeal the judgment.
Then in December, he found himself in the High Court once again, this time at the receiving end of a massive freeze order sought by long-time, but by then ex-girlfriend Yelena Gorbunova.
On December 20, 2012, a freeze order was issued against Berezovsky without notice. The order had been sought two days prior by Gorbunova, who is the mother of two of Berezovsky’s children. The order extended to Berezovsky and seven other defendants with interests in or control over two of the properties at issue in this case.
According to Gorbunova, Berezovsky had promised her £5 million from the sale of their shared home in Wentworth Park. He had further promised to buy a new home for Gorbunova within two years of its sale. Gorbunova claimed that Berezovsky had sold the house last year, and then used the proceeds to pay off various debts, and thus failed to uphold his promises to her.
Berezovsky objected to the order, alleging that the evidence which had served as its basis had failed to comply with the protocol for formulating a without-notice freeze order.
To add to his troubles, last January it was announced that he potentially faced money-laundering charges in France over a scandal involving his Cap d'Antibes properties purchased in 1997.
The latest news on the Berezovsky front involved his plans to auction an extraordinarily valuable Warhol painting, Red Lenin, at Christie’s Auction House in an effort to gather funds to pay his legal fees. He had reportedly planned to sell several properties and a 1927 Rolls Royce at auction as well.
A controversial past, leading to self-exile
Beyond his legal troubles, Berezovsky developed an international reputation for engaging in controversial disputes. There was a time in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia when he enjoyed unparalleled political influence. Once President Putin came to power in 2000, however, Berezovsky’s sphere of influence collapsed beneath him. Ultimately he used his media influence to launch a smear campaign against Putin. A very public feud between the two led Berezovsky to seek asylum in the UK.
Despite numerous requests, the UK refused to hand him over to Russia to stand trial on various criminal counts. Meanwhile, Berezovsky continued his quest to upset the powers that be from his self-imposed exile.
Speaking with Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy last fall as rumors circulated that he was the financial backer of jailed punk rock protesters Pussy Riot, he declared: “I don’t have anything to do with Pussy Riot and I didn’t discuss any project with them, but if I had thought up such a project, I would have been very proud.”