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Sheikh Aids Berezovsky, Abramovich

Published: May 14, 2010 (Issue # 1573)



  • Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa al Nahyan, left, brokered two deals between Abramovich, center, and Berezovsky, right.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

MOSCOW The children of royal families have different ways of earning a living.

Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, for example, brokered two deals between Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky, possibly earning a commission of $260 million, Vedomosti has learned.

Information on deals between the Russian billionaires appeared in a recent ruling by the High Court of London in a lawsuit Berezovsky filed against Abramovich. Sheikh Sultan took part in two transactions between Berezovsky and Abramovich totaling $1.475 billion, according to a verdict by the judge, Anthony Coleman.

In 2001, a company controlled by Sheikh Sultan mediated a deal in which Berezovsky and Badri Patarkatsishvili, now deceased, sold a stake in the ORT television channel to firms controlled by Abramovich for $175 million.

Another deal, also reached in 2001, concerned a $1.3 billion transaction. Berezovsky claimed that the funds were Abramovichs payment for 45.3 percent of oil company Sibneft. Abramovich insisted that Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili had no stake in Sibneft and that the $1.3 billion was compensation for their help in privatizing the company.

Berezovsky said he sold a beneficiary stake in Sibneft to Devonia Investments Ltd. Sheikh Sultan acted as a guarantor for the deal: He paid Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili himself before selling the assets to Abramovich.

Sheikh Sultan, 45, belongs to the royal family that has ruled Abu Dhabi for almost 250 years. His grandfather, Sheikh Zayed, was the founder of the United Arab Emirates and the first president of the federation. Sheikh Sultans father, Sheikh Khalifa, the eldest of Zayeds 19 sons, had to wait for 37 years before finally becoming king of Abu Dhabi and president of the country in 2004. Last year, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $18 billion.

Sheikh Sultan has a degree in international studies and is a graduate of several colleges, including the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the University of Salford.

He is a member of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi and heads a number of nonprofit organizations in the U.A.E., including the Emirates Equestrian Federation.

How exactly Sheikh Sultan met the two Russian businessmen is unknown. Spokespeople for Berezovsky and Abramovich refused to comment, and requests sent by Vedomosti to the U.A.E. presidential administration, the U.A.E. Embassy in Moscow and the Emirates Equestrian Federation went unanswered.

Berezovsky said Sheikh Sultans mediation was necessary to hide the fact that Abramovich was the final buyer of Sibneft.

Abramovichs representatives gave an alternative explanation: According to court documents, the former Chukotka governor only learned about the deal between Berezovsky and Devonia in 2007, after court proceedings were opened in London. Sheikh Sultans involvement seems to have been needed to circumvent the English banking laws on money laundering, which required the payment to be registered as a real transaction, representatives of Abramovich were cited as saying in the court papers.

Sheikh Sultan received a 20 percent commission for his involvement in the $1.3 billion deal with Berezovsky, Abramovichs lawyers said. This means that the Arab prince may have earned $260 million. Representatives of Berezovsky did not comment on the size of the commission, and Abramovichs lawyers refused to reveal their sources of information.

Experts were not surprised to learn of a third party taking part in the deals. It is common for citizens of the U.A.E. and other countries to be asked to serve the interests of unnamed beneficiaries, said Dmitry Klyonov, a partner at UFG Wealth Management,. He added that the rank of the intermediaries depends on the size of the deal: The bigger it is, the higher the status of the parties involved.





 

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


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Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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