U.K. Court Hears Abramovich Libel Claim Over Putin Book

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich rejects “lazy inaccuracies” in a book that claims he took over Chelsea Football Club at the Kremlin’s behest, his lawyer said Wednesday at the start of a U.K. libel trial.

The billionaire is suing Reuters journalist Catherine Belton and publisher HarperCollins over their 2020 book “Putin’s People: How The KGB Took Back Russia And Then Took On The West”.

The best-selling book alleges that President Vladimir Putin has overseen a vast exodus of ill-gotten money to spread Russian influence abroad, including the purchase of Chelsea by Abramovich in 2003.

The two-day hearing in London groups claims for libel brought against Belton and HarperCollins by Russian state-owned energy giant Rosneft, and against HarperCollins by Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman.

Pyotr Aven, the head of Russian lender Alfa-Bank, has also brought a data protection claim against the publisher.

Lawyer Hugh Tomlinson is representing Abramovich, Fridman and Aven, but denied pre-trial coordination among the wealthy Russians. 

Abramovich did “not bring this claim lightly” but the book “unfortunately repeats lazy inaccuracies about his role in the events described”, Tomlinson told the hearing, at the High Court of England and Wales in central London.

‘Villainy’

He described the book as alleging that Abramovich was “cashier” to the family of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, and then “a custodian of slush funds” to Yeltsin’s successor Putin.

“The ordinary reasonable reader thinks there is a lot of villainy going on and Mr Abramovich is part of it,” the barrister said.

Abramovich in a rare personal statement released by his lawyers in March said that his action was taken over “various false allegations about me in the book”. 

These “are having a damaging effect, not only on my personal reputation, but also in respect of the activities of Chelsea Football Club”, he said.

The court was due to hear later from lawyers for HarperCollins and Belton, who was present at the start of the hearings.

When Abramovich brought his claim in March, the publisher said both it and Belton would “robustly defend the claim and the right to report on matters of considerable public interest”. 

HarperCollins said the book was “an authoritative, important and conscientiously sourced work on contemporary Russia, that was much praised on publication by experts in the field”.

(c) The Moscow Times

5 comments

  • Abramovich was denied a UK visa unless he explained the source of his wealth. He whined, but withdrew his application, proceeding to become an Israeli citizen. He also tried to become a Swiss citizen too. The Swiss authorities denied the application after the Swiss Federal Office of Police concluded that Abramovich was under “suspicion of money laundering and presumed contacts with criminal organisations”, and that his assets were “at least partially of illegal origin”. Abramovich unsuccessfully took legal action to prevent Swiss media from reporting on the matter, and denied the allegations.

    Let’s hope the judge has been given some intel to see what sort of criminal this bastard is.

    Liked by 3 people

  • ‘He described the book as alleging that Abramovich was “cashier” to the family of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, and then “a custodian of slush funds” to Yeltsin’s successor Putin.

    “The ordinary reasonable reader thinks there is a lot of villainy going on and Mr Abramovich is part of it,” the barrister said.’
    That is because there is a hell of a lot of villainy going on. It is disgusting that British law firms are happy to take huge fees to lie on behalf of verminous putinoid scum.
    I have not read this book, but it sounds like a must read.
    Brian Whitmore has long claimed that many of putler’s pet oligarchs, including Abramovich, Medvedchuk, Ivanishvili and many, many others are in fact custodians of Russian criminal cash. Many of putler’s family and childhood friends also are staggeringly rich for no discernible reason. The amount of cash held in this way is likely to be not unadjacent to $1 trillion.

    Liked by 3 people

  • It is disgusting that lawyers will knowingly take laundered money. Let’s not forget, when it comes to a choice between morals and money, lawyers are in good company with this Russian trash.

    Liked by 3 people

    • onlyfactsplease

      A sensible law would be to outlaw lawyers to take laundered money for their services under threat of a minimum of 20 years in prison. This sort of scum would then have to rely on court-appointed lawyers.

      Liked by 2 people

  • onlyfactsplease

    Let’s see if the British courts are above ruskie mafia scum … or just another one of their tentacles.

    Liked by 2 people

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