No one in the English language has written tragedy and intrigue the way Shakespeare did. From plays like Macbeth, in which Lady Macbeth urges her husband to kill the king and take his place, to Othello, whose protagonist strangles his innocent wife at the goading of the villain Iago, Shakespeare’s dramas sometimes seem to represent the extremes of human experience and the human psyche.
But in a courtroom in London, a real-life drama played out two years ago that easily rivaled Shakespeare. In fact, “read Shakespeare” was exactly what one of Roman Abramovich’s lawyers recommended for fully understanding the lawsuit that unfolded in London.
What’s so Shakespearian about Abramovich’s courtroom drama? Elements of this play included Russian gangsters, blackmail, hit men, billions of dollars, a U.K. football team, a glamorous art dealer, government bribery, and possibly the president of Russia himself, Mr. Putin.
And unlike Shakespeare, every bit of this story is true.
The Dramatis Personae and the Stakes
The courtroom drama in England centers around Boris Berezovsky, who is the former business partner of Roman Abramovich. Berezovsky claimed that Abramovich cheated him out of valuable assets by using blackmail and intimidation. In the end, the lawsuit was dropped, mainly because the judge suspected Berezovsky to be a liar and Abramovich to be mainly honest. Berezovsky used to be worth much more money; many people speculate that his lawsuit against Abramovich was an attempt to refill his depleted coffers.
Berezovsky himself is a dramatic character, a man who fled to Russia in 2003 and was granted political asylum, but who remains one of the wealthiest Russians in the world. He was friends with many famous Russian ex-pats, including Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian man assassinated in London via polonium poisoning in 2006. London police later foiled an assassination attempt against Berezovsky himself, an assassination that most suspect the Kremlin itself ordered.
The judge might have found Abramovich to be a “reliable witness,” but that doesn’t mean controversy has stopped following the Russian oligarch. His other dramas have included:
A 1992 arrest for theft, when he essentially hijacked 55 tankers of diesel fuel. The charges were dropped after he cooperated with authorities.
Accusations of loan fraud in 2005, in which Swiss authorities found Abramovich and others had defrauded the IMF. They later indicated they would sue him for more than $14.9 million.
In 2008, it came to light that Abramovich bribed Russian officials for political favors and a big share of oil and aluminum assets.
An affiliate of the London-based, Russian-owned Sibir Energy, which controls oil and gas production in Siberia, is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Abramovich for allegedly cheating them out of their Russian assets.
For the time being, Roman Abramovich and his art dealer wife seem to be doing their best to stay out of the spotlight. Most current articles on Abramovich have more to do with the Chelsea, England, football team he owns than about the controversy that dogs him. Nevertheless, Roman Abramovich is a perfect example of how wealth in Russia rarely comes without a Shakespearian drama attached to it.
Wikipedia — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Abramovich
The Mirror — http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/roman-abramovich-revealed-the-dangerous-world-89764
Vanity Fair — http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/11/roman-abramovich-boris-berezovsky-feud-russia