The High Court in London has ruled against Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in a dispute centring around the ownership of a valuable piece of land in central Moscow.
The ruling was the latest in a complex lawsuit between Mr Deripaska and Vladimir Chernukhin, a former deputy finance minister in Russia, over the ownership of a 22-acre Moscow site. The hearings, which centred on whether Mr Chernukhin was a party to a 2005 shareholder agreement relating to the site, ended last month.
Mr Chernukhin, who left Russia in 2004 and became a British citizen in 2011, had claimed he was party to the shareholder agreement along with Mr Deripaska and that he had installed businesswoman Lolita Danilina, a former girlfriend, as his “agent” in the agreement. This was disputed by Mr Deripaska and Ms Danilina.
On Thursday, Mr Justice Teare ruled that Mr Chernukhin was “the true joint venture partner of Mr Deripaska” and described the litigation as “aggressively fought on all sides”.
The judge criticised Mr Deripaska’s evidence, saying the billionaire gave the impression he was “an unwilling witness” and did not “appear to me to be a witness who wished to assist the court in ascertaining the truth”. In his ruling, the judge added: “Moreover, some of his answers strained the court’s credulity to breaking point.”
The judge was also critical of Mr Chernukhin, saying he had reason to treat his evidence with “great caution”. He added: “Thus, the depressing fact is that there was good reason to doubt the honesty of each of the principal actors in this case.”
The court case, which began in November and ended last month, saw a number of allegations aired by both parties, including a claim by Mr Chernukhin that in December 2010 a group of men acting for Mr Deripaska had staged an “armed takeover” of the Moscow site, which at the time housed the TGM textiles factory.
Mr Deripaska denied there was any armed raid and his lawyers told the court that the allegations were “lurid” and exaggerated.
Both Mr Deripaska and Mr Chernukhin have UK political connections. Mr Deripaska hosted former Tory chancellor George Osborne on his yacht anchored off Corfu in 2008. Mr Chernukhkin’s wife Lubov, who also gave evidence in this case, has donated more than £600,000 to the Tory party since 2012, including £160,000 to play tennis with Boris Johnson.
Mr Deripaska, who had hoped to overturn an earlier arbitration decision that he should pay Mr Chernukhin £74m to resolve the dispute, plans to appeal against the High Court ruling.
In a statement a spokesman for Mr Deripaska said he brought the High Court case “because he believed, and still believes, that his agreement was with Mrs Danilina as his business partner, as reflected in the signed shareholders agreement”.
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