LONDON: Roman Abramovich must wait for an interim judgment on his libel action over a book’s claim that he bought Chelsea in 2003 on the instructions of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
The claim was made in Putin’s men by the former Moscow correspondent Catherine Belton. Ironically the allegation would have gone almost unnoticed had the Russian oligarch not sued.
After the second day of a preliminary hearing concerning the content of Putin’s People the court announced delivery of an initial assessment in October. A full trial would not be likely until next year.
Abramovich refutes the allegation while Belton and publisher HarperCollins reject claims of defamation.
On Wednesday the court heard that a settlement had been reached in two other related cases: one involving the Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman, 57, who had brought a similar libel claim against HarperCollins, and a data protection claim brought against the publisher by Petr Aven, 66, the head of the Russian lender Alfa-Bank.
Lawyers for HarperCollins said the changes the publisher made to settle Fridman and Aven’s claims were minor, covering three paragraphs. HarperCollins added it had “amended some statements” and expressed regret that the disputed points had not been put to the two men prior to publication.