Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich paid countryman and fellow oligarch Boris Berezovsky $2 billion for his political clout in the construction of his businesses in the 1990s, a London court heard on Tuesday.
Former Kremlin ally Berezovsky – now an exile in London after falling out with the Russian authorities – claims Chelsea Football Club owner Abramovich forced him in 2000 to sell a 21.5 percent stake in Russian oil company Sibneft at well below market price.
Abramovich denies the accusation and says Berezovsky never had an interest in Sibneft.
"Berezovsky received between 1995 and 2002 at least $2 billion from businesses controlled by Roman Abramovich," Abramovich's lawyer Jonathan Sumption told the court.
"These payments represented the value of Mr Berezovsky's services as a political godfather,” he added.
Berezovsky – who fled Britain in 2001 after a row with then-Russian President Vladimir Putin – says he sold his Sibneft stake for a knockdown price because he believed that Abramovich would use his connections with Putin to ensure his shares would be taken away if he did not so.
Abramovich's investment vehicle Millhouse Capital sold a controlling stake in Sibneft to Russian energy giant Gazprom for over $13 billion in 2005.
The trial is expected to last two months.