Forty minutes into the judgment, it was clear Abramovich had won game, set and match. The judge dismissed in "its entirety" Berezovsky's claim that he had been a partner in Sibneft, set up in the mid-1990s when Russia's then president, Boris Yeltsin, practically gifted state assets to a small group of well-connected businessmen: the oligarchs. (In return they helped him dubiously win Russia's 1996 election.) She also rejected a second Berezovsky claim for $564m, his alleged share of a joint interest with Abramovich in the aluminium group Rusal.
Instead, Gloster accepted Abramovich's version of history: that he had been compelled to hire Berezovsky for his political connections. Back in 1994 Berezovsky was Yeltsin's occasional tennis-partner and a powerful figure in the corridors of the Kremlin. Abramovich was a young and ambitious oil trader. Gloster accepted the relationship had been one of "krysha" – the Russian word for roof – with Berezovsky giving Abramovich physical and political protection, indispensable in the murky world of Russian business. (The judge prounounced "krysha" to rhyme with Trisha, rather than the Russian way, "kreesha".)
The judge even ruled that Putin hadn't tried to intimidate Berezovsky into selling his TV channel ORT, during an uncomfortable Kremlin showdown in 2000, shortly before Berezovsky fled. Her finding prompted seasoned Russian watchers to guffaw. Afterwards, a stunned Berezovsky emerged into the corridor. The judge had tried to rewrite Russian history, he said, adding that his faith in British justice had now been badly shaken. Had he expected to win? "Absolutely."