Boris Berezovsky Dead after “Girlfriend”, Yelena Gorbunova Demands $200 Million


Boris Berezovsky court battles

Alex Spence, January 24 2013

For nearly four months she was ever-present at Boris Berezovsky’s side as the exiled Russian oligarch fought an epic legal battle against his rival Roman Abramovich – as much a part of the mercurial tycoon’s extravagant cortège as the Maybach limousine and the muscle-ripped bodyguards.

But Yelena Gorbunova has now turned on the father of her two children, launching an acrimonious High Court claim against Mr Berezovsky that promises to drag the troubled businessman through yet another protracted and revelatory legal fight.

Months after Mr Berezovsky’s devastating defeat in his $6 billion case against Mr Abramovich, in which a judge found that Mr Berezovsky was an erratic and deliberately dishonest witness, Ms Gorbunova has accused her former partner of breaking financial promises and trying to hide assets.

The case is likely to be highly personal and to heap further embarrassment on Mr Berezovsky, whom a judge described yesterday as “under financial pressure” and anxious to satisfy his creditors.

The Russian oligarch was left with a legal bill of £70 million after losing the Abramovich case last summer, but now faces a messy scrap with Ms Gorbunova about some of his remaining assets, including two mansions on the French Riviera, the proceeds of the sale of Mr Berezovsky’s vast Surrey estate and a slice of a nine-figure settlement with the family of Mr Berezovsky’s former business partner.

A preliminary judgment handed down in the High Court yesterday revealed that Ms Gorbunova obtained an injunction freezing up to £200 million of Mr Berezovsky’s assets five days before Christmas.

Hearings in the case have so far been held behind closed doors, but yesterday’s ruling by Mr Justice Mann revealed limited details of Ms Gorbunova’s claim. The 45-year-old Muscovite contends that Mr Berezovsky promised her £5 million from the sale of his Wentworth Park estate in Surrey last year, and to buy her and their two children another, similarly palatial home in Britain within two years. Instead, she claims, Mr Berezovsky used the proceeds of the sale to pay off debts.

Ms Gorbunova is also arguing that she is the ultimate owner of Mr Berezovsky’s lavish houses in Cap d’Antibes and that she is entitled to a third of the money he received from settling a case against the family of his friend Badri Patarkatsishvili, a deceased Georgian billionaire, late last year.

According to the judgment, Ms Gorbunova argues that Mr Berezovsky not only went back on an agreement to pay her part of the settlement, understood to be worth at least £100 million, but had promised the money to his former wife, Galina, whom he divorced in 2011.

Ms Gorbunova is concerned that the oligarch is preparing to sell the French homes and will use the money to pay off his creditors rather than giving any to her, the judgment reveals.

Mr Berezovsky challenged the freezing order, which would have severely restricted his spending and forced him to disclose the assets he holds in a web of offshore trusts and shell companies.

That account of Mr Berezovsky’s assets, had it got into the public domain, would have been hugely embarrassing to the oligarch and revealed not only the full extent not only of his business interests but his personal possessions.

Mr Berezovsky’s lawyers argued that Ms Gorbunova’s application for the freezing order did not comply with the correct legal procedures and that the injunction itself was excessive.

Mr Justice Mann agreed and lifted the asset freeze, although Mr Berezovsky will still be unable to sell the French properties until the dispute with Ms Gorbunova is resolved.

Mr Berezovsky’s lawyers declined to comment. Ms Gorbunova’s solicitor did not respond to a request for comment.


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