With rulings enforceable across the globe, England has become the forum of choice for mammoth Russian cases
When it comes to litigation Russian oligarchs are the masters. In September, Rusal chief executive Oleg Deripaska and businessman Michael Cherney settled their $1bn (£623m) fight, ending one of the largest civil cases of the year.
It came a month after Mrs Justice Gloster threw out claims of more than $560m brought by Boris Berezovsky against Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.
Berezovsky, Gloster J said, was: “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 that 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.”
The two cases are battling over the same thing – aluminium.
Cherney claimed he was owed a share of Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer, alleging he was Deripaska’s partner in the 1990s. Deripaska denied the claim.
Berezovksy claimed that Abramovich coerced him into selling his 21.5 per cent share in Russian oil company Sibneft at a significantly reduced price, while also claiming that Abramovich had broken promises over a deal involving Rusal.
These are big-bucks cases where the parties are vehemently opposed and the hire of top billing silks – sometimes £3,000 an hour – is seen as an investment.
US firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom charged £40m for its work for Abramovich, including £8m for former Brick Court silk Jonathan Sumption QC. Addleshaw Goddard, advising Berezovsky, negotiated a settlement over the costs. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, acting for defendant Vasily Anismov, charged £5m – a bill that Addleshaws is challenging through the courts.
We are likely to never know how much Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan billed Deripaska, nor Dechert billed Cherney.
Given the ready enforceability of English court judgments in other EU member states and worldwide, the Russians will continue to flock to London.