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The Commercial Court in London on Friday gave its verdict in a case brought by the fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky against the Russian billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich. The full Judgment has not yet been delivered. The Judge has however provided a summary of the Judgment:
I do not propose to discuss the case itself. The case was simple and the Judgment explains it. Berezovsky claimed Abramovich owned or acquired interests in various companies on trust for Berezovsky who was the true owner of these interests. No issues of law were involved. It was for Berezovsky to prove the truth of what he said. Berezovsky had no evidence but his uncorroborated word. The Judge did not believe him. The Judgment is based entirely on fact. An appeal is therefore hopeless.
Reports in Britain speak of the case providing an insight into Russia. The case does say a lot about Russia though mainly about the Russia of the 1990s. The case however says a lot more about Britain. It is that I want to discuss.
The Judge’s assessment of Berezovsky
The case was one for Berezovsky to prove. The Judge could have confined herself to saying that he had failed to prove it. The Judge went much further. I will set out what she said about Berezovsky in full:
“…..I found Mr. Berezovsky an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes. At times the evidence which he gave was deliberately dishonest; sometimes he was clearly making his evidence up as he went along in response to the perceived difficulty in answering the questions in a manner consistent with his case; 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. On occasions he tried to avoid answering questions by making long and irrelevant speeches, or by professing to have forgotten facts which he had been happy to record in his pleadings or witness statements. He embroidered or supplemented statements in his witness statements, or directly contradicted them. He departed from his own previous oral evidence, sometimes within minutes of having given it. When the evidence presented problems, Mr. Berezovsky simply changed his case so as to distance himself from statements and in witness statements which he had signed or approved, blaming the “interpretation” of his lawyers, as if this somehow diminished his pleadings and witness statements. His “I blame my lawyers” excuse was not convincing.”
March 25, 2013 | Antiwar.com
Did he end his own life – and, if so, why?The death of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky will doubtless provide plenty of grist for numerous conspiracy mills – indeed, he was the fount of many such tall tales, claiming the Russian government was behind not only the death of Alexander Litvinenko, but also engineered the bombings in Russian cities attributed to Chechen terrorist groups. The man who stood at the epicenter of London's anti-Putin Russian community – where many of the oligarchs and other crooks have sought refuge from justice – was the equivalent of a Russian 9/11 "truther," who, as the judge in a recent court case involving Berezovsky put it, was an "inherently unreliable witness" who "regarded truth as a transitory concept."
His vast fortune – acquired under dubious circumstances in post-Soviet Russia – was largely gone when he died. He had recently lost a lawsuit against rival oligarch Roman Abramovich, and he also faced several other legal threats, including one by his former girlfriend which sought to freeze his assets. Reportedly nearly penniless at the time of his death, resorting to selling several valuable paintings and other items acquired over his rapacious career, according to his lawyer he "was almost living in poverty" at the end. Although the cause of his death is not known, according to news reports the exiled oligarch was found on the floor of his bathroom, which had been locked from the inside: friends say he was being treated for severe depression.
Although some of Berezovsky's longtime supporters are hinting at foul play – the usual scenario of a KGB-Putin plot, as was cooked up in the Alexander Litvinenko polonium poisoning case – it seems likely the impoverished and dispirited oligarch either took his own life or else died of sheer stress.
If indeed it was suicide, then the timing may be key to understanding his motive. Barely a week before he was found dead, it was announced that the long planned official inquiry into the Litvinenko affair, scheduled to start in may, had been delayed to October. Various reasons have been given for the delay: the British government has been very slow to release documents to the court of inquiry. In addition, the Brits are insisting evidence of Litvinenko's dealings with MI6, the British intelligence service that paid him monthly fees of £2000, be kept secret, and that certain witnesses be allowed to testify anonymously. Indeed, Sir Robert Owen, the coroner in charge of the inquiry, has threatened the British media with sanctions if they so much as hint at the identity of these witnesses.
To begin with, this murder – if murder it was – occurred in 2006. To say that the documents aren't yet ready is hardly credible. While Litvinenko's widow blames the Russians for the delay, what's interesting is the intervention of Foreign Secretary William Hague, who wants to keep key evidence under wraps. It is generally assumed that the secrecy request has to do with Litvinenko's widely known relationship with British intelligence, but this isn't necessarily the case. While Mrs. Litvinenko remarked at the last hearing that it's hard to imagine a body less interested in getting to the bottom of the case than the Russian authorities, perhaps it is the Brits who don't want the truth to come out. After all, the Russians have agreed to hand over thousands of documents and have publicly stated their intention to participate in the inquiry, while the British agencies involved haven't even begun to search, in some cases, for the requisite documentation.
Litvinenko was a protégé of Berezovsky: it was the Russian oligarch who funded Litvinenko's anti-Russian propaganda campaign, through his "Civil Liberties Foundation," and it was the Berezovsky public relations machine that broadcast the accepted media narrative of the Litivinenko case: that the poisoning had been carried out by the "KGB" – always using the Soviet era acronym, instead of the actual name of the Russian agency known as the FSB – out of revenge for Berezovsky's activities abroad. After fleeing Russia ahead of an indictment for massive fraud, embezzlement, and other financial crimes – crimes which lay at the very foundations of his huge fortune – the Russian oligarch went on a crusade to discredit and ultimately overthrow Vladimir Putin, and to support the Islamist insurgency in Russia's former province of Chechnya. Under Berezovsky's patronage, Litvinenko – a convert to Islam – wrote a series of books purporting to prove Putin and his supporters were behind virtually every terrorist attack in Russia attributed to Chechnyan terrorists. According to their story, it was all a hoax designed to perpetuate Putin in power.
While this was laughed at in Russia the same way we laugh at the Truthers who insist it was the US government itself that brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11 – via "controlled demolition," or whatever – the anti-Russian anti-Putin propagandists made use of it in the West, where it was uncritically repeated.
The British government cooperated with this nonsense, declaring Berezovsky a "political refugee," allowing him to avoid extradition to Russia to answer for serious crimes. They backed up the Berezovsky-manufactured narrative of Litvinenko's death as a "KGB plot" – and now they are delaying the inquiry into Litvinenko's death, laughably claiming that, six years later, they aren't "ready" to go ahead.
Something doesn't quite smell right here – and Berezovsky's sudden death, probably by his own hand, should send alarm bells ringing for longtime observers of the Litvinenko case and Berezovsky's role in it.
The narrative woven by the semi-official Western media around the Litvinenko case – that it was all a Kremlin plot to murder a marginal critic of the Putin regime – just doesn't make sense. Why would the Russians kill him in a manner that would leave a radioactive trail stretching from Moscow to London?
Any serious effort to uncover the real facts of the case would give at least equal weight to a number of alternative explanations for Litvinenko's bizarre death. To begin with, there are indications that Litvinenko was involved in a nuclear smuggling scheme, and according to news reports it wouldn't be the first time. Since Litvinenko was being entirely supported by Berezovsky, it is worth asking what the exiled Russian oligarch's role was in all this. Was Berezovsky involved in the smuggling of nuclear materials? If contamination from this led to Litvinenko's death, surely Berezovsky's role, if any, would come out in the inquiry – or is this what the British government is desperately trying to keep secret?
Litvinenko had also evidently gone into the blackmailing business, and was reported to be extorting several Russian Mafia figures, claiming to have sources inside the FSB that would provide the dirt on any number of Russian expatriates, threatening to make their darkest secrets public. As Litvinenko's patron, surely Berezosky had knowledge and perhaps direct involvement in this project. If Litvinenko was killed by one or more of his intended victims, and this came out, then Berezovsky would likely have been implicated in the blackmail scheme. There are those who even speculate that Berezovsky was himself being blackmailed by Litvinenko.
If Berezovsky killed himself, it is worth asking: why? His closest friends and associates are even now saying he wasn't the suicidal sort: that he was a fighter who loved life passionately. If Berezovsky took his own life, he must have had a very good reason. If he thought he was about to be exposed as having been complicit not only in perpetrating the fraudulent narrative around Litvinenko's death, but also as having committed far more serious crimes that would have led to his irrevocable disgrace – nuclear smuggling, blackmail, and perhaps worse – then suicide would have been the only way out.
Throughout his life, Berezovsky was a ruthless player in a game that involved stolen billions, international intrigue, and the fate of nations. He looted the Russian economy, and fled when his crimes were uncovered, serving as the mouthpiece and financier of a Western-orchestrated propaganda campaign against the country of his birth. In the end, he wound up broke, and alone, pursued by the demons of his past. Whether those demons will catch up with him in death remains to be seen.
April 5, 2013 at 6:27 amWhat is it with this "locked room" foolishness? To begin with, the world has only the bodyguard's word that the room was ever locked in the first place, so the first person being grilled for a mistake should be him, since he could easily have killed Berezovsky himself, kicked the door open and said it was locked as an explanation for not checking earlier. Also explains his fingerprints on the doorknob, although that would likely be dismissed as routine anyway. Next, anyone who killed him needed only to have pushed in the door handle and closed the door behind him to leave a dead Berezovsky in a locked room – bathroom locks typically function so that the knob will not turn only from the outside, and it is perfectly possible to close a bathroom door after locking it.yalensis says:
They should be checking to see who knew Berezovsky sent a letter to Putin, and the only thing that suggests there ever was one is the vociferous shouting from the western side that there never was one. That might be because they want to automatically discredit anything that might be in it. But honestly, I don't know why they don't just find some patsy to step up and say "I killed Litvinenko", give him a couple of months of community service and be done with it.
I don't subscribe to the "Berezovsky was murdered" theory simply because anyone with half a brain trying to portray it as a simple suicide would have done a much better job. Only an impulsive idiot would have introduced all the inconsistencies which have the press gabbling and give Tin-Tin more column inches. Hey, guys; look at this – I went out for a drive with my completely trustworthy friend who would never grass me up and corroborates my story word-for-word, and when I came back at around 10:21 AM, the boss was hanging from the closet rod in his bedroom by a stout piece of rope which would easily bear his weight; the remaining rope from the coil is in the garage, and the knife that made the cut is lying on the kitchen counter with Berezovsky's prints on it and no others. A kicked-over chair was on the floor in the middle of the bedroom. Sure looks like a suicide to me.April 5, 2013 at 3:38 am
Berezovsky did not off himself, IMHO. He was down, but not out. A guy with his Falstaffian self-love and zesf for life?… It hadn't yet come to that. He had one card left to play…
The smoking gun is the letter to Putin. Feeling unsafe in this suddenly hostile environment, Berezovsky swallowed his pride and appealed to Putin. As dowry for his safe return, he offered to dish out all the dirt on the Litvinenko affair.
He would have pointed the finger at MI-5. Brit spooks couldn't allow this to happen, so MI-6 offed him, using a classical "locked room" gambit borrowed from a Sherlock Holmes story.
March 30, 2013
April 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm
The business with Berezovsky's letter to Putin, in which he laments of his prodigal ways and asks for forgiveness, gets more farcical all the time. The Daily Telegraph and The Irish Independent report that Roman Abramovich passed the letter to Putin. Berezovsky's girlfriend Katerina Sabirova says this is true.
One wonders if Abramovich had seen the letter's contents and if he did so, did he pass it on with a straight face?
April 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm
It is very odd that Berezovsky would entrust the letter to his arch-enemy Abramovich?
I might doubt this, however, the take-away is that Berezovsky's girlfriend Sabirova has confirmed that the letter does exist. I second those who say that Putin should publish the letter as a matter of public interest and right to know.
By implication, the second part of the story is now more plausible (that Berezovsky offered, in his letter, to tell the full story on Litvinenko; it goes without saying that he would have been fully debriefed by Russian secret service on his return). And hence, to me, this vindicates my theory that MI-6 offed Berezovsky to make sure he would keep the secret about the Litvinenko affair. Somebody from MI-6 entered his home, slapped him around and then strangled him, and tried to make it look like a suicide.
If it had been a real suicide, he would have left behind a self-justificatory note.
Well, that's my opinion.
April 7, 2013 at 4:54 am
I am sure Berezovsky committed suicide but in all other respects I find your reconstruction plausible. First of all Abramovitch was an obvious person for Berezovsky to use as a courier. As someone who was involved in the trial has told me and as has since been mentioned in the media, Berezovsky by the time of the trial had come to see Abramovitch as Putin's agent. Despite this the two men remained in contact with each other even after the trial. As a matter of fact Abramovitch is someone who probably does have direct access to Putin. By giving his letter to Abramovitch, Berezovsky would be able to avoid official channels such as the Embassy (continuously monitored by British intelligence) or Putin's own Office or indeed the British Post Office (which was surely reading his mail), keeping the letter strictly confidential between the three men, whilst being sure that it would reach Putin and that Putin would read it.
Secondly, it makes complete sense that Berezovsky would offer some sort of deal over Litvinenko as the price of being allowed to go back to Russia. Berezovsky was nothing if not a huckster and a dealer and it would be completely in character for him to think that he could do a deal with Putin by offering Putin something useful in return. An offer to admit that the stories Berezovsky has been spreading about the Litvinenko affair were untrue would be an obvious gambit. It would probably not occur to Berezovsky that with his reputation and credibility in tatters any "admissions" he made about the Litvinenko affair would be valueless to Putin as the British would simply say they were untrue. By contrast the one thing Putin could not afford to do politically was appear to deal with Berezovsky. That would have gone down with the public in Russia (who one should never forget are the people whose opinion is the one that Putin must ultimately care about) like a lead balloon. Putin is far too good a politician to risk his popularity and reputation in Russia for some ephemeral propaganda gains over the Litvinenko affair, the importance of which can anyway be exaggerated.
I don't find it surprising that Berezovsky, once it became clear to him that a deal with Putin was not on the table, should have killed himself. Quite apart from anything else Putin's silence would have brought home to Berezovsky how powerless and irrelevant he had become. He simply had no cards left to play and for such a narcissist, faced by the collapse of his fantasies and with reality closing in on him, suicide was the obvious way out.
By contrast I don't believe the British had a hand in Berezovsky's death. Following the collapse of his credibility any comment Berezovsky made about the Litvinenko affair would carry little traction in Britain. Besides the British had any number of obvious legal avenues to stop Berezovsky speaking out and even to prevent him leaving Britain. They didn't need to kill him to stop him doing those things. It would have been entirely possible for example to obtain from a judge a gagging order on Berezovsky or even an order barring him from leaving certain designated areas of Britain. No judge would have refused to make such orders on "national security" grounds. The making of such orders would of course have to be kept secret, with a further order barring the media from discussing them or even admitting their existence, but then that too is common in Britain. Far easier to do something like this than go to all the trouble of killing Berezovsky and staging his death to make it look like a suicide.
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