Billionaire Taunts Exiled Ex-Banker in Moscow Property Spat
(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Oleg Deripaska appeared in a London court for the second time this year, trading barbs about a fellow businessman’s lack of influence, before declaring that the #MeToo movement hadn’t yet arrived in Russia.
The prominent oligarch, who’s been battling U.S. sanctions since earlier this year, was giving evidence in a dispute over a valuable piece of land in central Moscow. The billionaire brought the case against Vladimir Chernukhin, an ally of the former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who’s now an opposition politician.
“I don’t want to downgrade your client,” Deripaska told Chernukhin’s lawyer during his cross examination. "His career was totally developed by his boss."
The attorney, Jonathan Crow, argued that Deripaska chose to deal with Chernukhin when they agreed to jointly invest in the factory site, rather than Chernukhin’s former lover, Lolita Danilina. Crow said that Danilina had little if any influence and didn’t appear on a list ranking the top Russian business leaders. The billionaire drew laughter from the massed lawyers in his response when he pointed out that this was a list solely for men.
"We don’t have a #MeToo moment yet," he quipped.
Chernukhin left Russia for the U.K. in 2004.
“It’s laughable to describe him as a tycoon,” Deripaska said about Chernukhin as he resumed giving evidence for a second day.
Deripaska said that some Russian oligarchs had staying power.
“I saw your list,” he told Crow. “Who was the real person on this list? Who still sits on the list?” It was the big oligarchs with large private businesses, like Roman Abramovich, who are “still all there,” he said.
It was Deripaska’s second appearance in London’s High Court this year after he previously fought a lawsuit in May against fellow billionaire Vladimir Potanin over control of Russia’s largest mining company.
This time, Deripaska is attempting to challenge an earlier judgment that it was Chernukhin with whom he jointly bought the site rather than Danilina. The pre-revolutionary factory site has since been developed into trendy lofts, restaurants and nightclubs.
"I was slightly cheated and defrauded," Deripaska said. "It started bothering me a lot more than it should."
Deripaska also addressed Chernukhin’s allegation that he ordered an “armed takeover” of the factory site in 2010 and that a security team of more than 30 men overpowered guards. Chernukhin’s statement sounded like a "military operation," Deripaska said, calling it a "fantasy."
The billionaire has seen his net worth decline by 65 percent this year. He and his representatives have so far unsuccessfully been negotiating with the U.S. Treasury to end the sanctions.
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