Oligarch, who’s been battling US sanctions since earlier this year, was giving evidence in a dispute over a valuable piece of land in central Moscow
Russian billionaire Deripaska takes land battle to UK court
Billionaire Oleg Deripaska appeared in a London court for the second time this year on Thursday, trading barbs about a fellow businessman’s lack of influence.
The prominent oligarch, who’s been battling US sanctions since earlier this year, was giving evidence in a dispute over a valuable piece of land in central Moscow. The billionaire brought the case against Vladimir Chernukhin, an ally of the former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who’s now an opposition politician.
“I don’t want to downgrade your client,” Mr Deripaska told Mr Chernukhin’s lawyer during his cross examination. "His career was totally developed by his boss."
The attorney, Jonathan Crow, argued that Mr Deripaska chose to deal with Mr Chernukhin when they agreed to jointly invest in the factory site, rather than Mr Chernukhin’s former lover, Lolita Danilina. Mr Crow said that Ms Danilina had little if any influence and didn’t appear on a list ranking the top Russian business leaders. The billionaire drew laughter from the massed lawyers in his response when he pointed out that this was a list solely for men.
Mr Chernukhin left Russia for the UK in 2004.“It’s laughable to describe him as a tycoon,” Mr Deripaska said about Mr Chernukhin as he resumed giving evidence for a second day.
Mr Deripaska said that some Russian oligarchs had staying power.
“I saw your list,” he told Mr Crow. “Who was the real person on this list? Who still sits on the list?” It was the big oligarchs with large private businesses, like Roman Abramovich, who are “still all there”, he said.
It was Mr Deripaska’s second appearance in London’s High Court this year after he previously fought a lawsuit in May against fellow billionaire Vladimir Potanin over control of Russia’s largest mining company.
This time, Mr Deripaska is attempting to challenge an earlier judgment that it was Mr Chernukhin with whom he jointly bought the site rather than Ms Danilina. The pre-revolutionary factory site has since been developed into trendy lofts, restaurants and nightclubs.
"I was slightly cheated and defrauded," Mr Deripaska said. "It started bothering me a lot more than it should be."
His testimony hasn’t yet addressed Chernukhin’s allegation that he ordered an “armed takeover” of the factory site in 2010, where a group of more than 30 men overpowered guards.
The billionaire has seen his net worth decline by 65 per cent this year. He and his representatives have so far unsuccessfully been negotiating with the US Treasury to end the sanctions.