Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich is suing a British journalist and her publisher over a book on the rise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, reported the Associated Press.
On Wednesday, Catherine Belton appeared in court to defend her book “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and then Took on the West” that chronicles the rise to the top of former KGB agent Putin and his associates after the fall of the USSR in 1991.
Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea Football Club who in 2019 purchased a massive estate in Tel Aviv for a record $64.5 million, is accusing Belton, a former Financial Times correspondent, and her publisher HarperCollins of making false allegations in the book that he purchased the Fulham, West London-based Chelsea soccer team in 2003 at the behest of Putin, calling the claim “false and defamatory.”
The Premier League team is one of the most popular soccer teams in the world.
Hugh Tomlinson, Abramovich’s lawyer, said the book implied the his client’s purchase of the team was “part of a scheme to corrupt the West … aimed at building a block-hold in the UK for Russian influence.”
Belton’s lawyer Andrew Caldecott said that someone reading the book would conclude from the evidence presented that “there are grounds to suspect Mr. Abramovich was acting at the Kremlin’s direction,” rather than reading definitive proof.
The book also includes a quote from a source close to Abramovich issuing a “firm denial” of the charge, Caldecott added.
The lawsuit is one of several defamation claims related to the book brought forward by Russia parties, including state-owned energy firm Rosneft, Russian-Israeli businessman Mikhail Fridman and Russian banker Petr Aven. Those three cases have already been settled, said Tomilson.
He added that HarperCollins had “agreed to remove effectively all the material on which the actions are based from future editions of the book” and would issue an apology for not asking the two men to comment on allegations implying they had KGB connections early in their careers.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)