London, July 5 : Roman Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea Football Club, has admitted to paying billions of dollars for political favours and protection fees to get his hands on the former Soviet Union's mineral wealth.
The one time penniless street trader has now amassed a 11.4 billion pound fortune, as explained for the first time in his own words in court papers seen by The Times.
Abramovich paid older oligarchs so that he could obtain a big share of Russia's oil and aluminium assets and to escape unscathed from the deadly post-communist carve-up.
He famously emerged triumphant after the "aluminium wars", in which more than 100 people believed to have been killed in gangland feuds over control of the lucrative smelters. He avoided the fate of a rival oligarch who annoyed the Kremlin and ended up being transported to jail in Siberia for ten years.
Abramovich, 41, has been forced to tell his story because his mentor Boris Berezovsky, 62, is suing him for four billion pounds at the London Commercial Court.
The exiled Berezovsky claims that Abramovich became an enforcer-type figure for Vladimir Putin, passing on alleged threats of confiscation - and the jailing of a friend - to pressure him into selling shares in former state assets cheaply.
Abramovich has retorted with a 53-page defence that accuses Berezovsky and a Georgian oligarch of demanding huge sums for helping him to rise from obscurity.
The man from Georgia, Arkady "Badri" Patarkatsishvili, emerges as the key intermediary, passing messages between the former friends. Patarkatsishvili was offered 500 million dollars by Abramovich, the defence papers admit, for protecting him in the aluminium wars.
The Georgian was found dead in the bedroom of his country house in Leatherhead, Surrey, five months ago. Tests showed that he had advanced heart disease. He was 52.
Abramovich launches his defence with an icy riposte to his old pal.
Abramovich's vast wealth is founded on the Siberian oil company Sibneft, which was privatised by President Yeltsin in 1995 in an auction that some experts suspect of having been rigged. The Chelsea owner now admits paying Berezovsky, then nicknamed "Godfather of the Kremlin" because of his influence over President Yeltsin, to secure the oil business.
The Chelsea owner's next target was the aluminium industry. After privatisation, smelter managers, metals traders and journalists were reported to have been killed as groups battled for control.
Abramovich now admits that he owed his success to the late Georgian oligarch. "Mr Patarkatsishvili did ... provide assistance to the defendant in the defendant's acquisition of assets in the Russian aluminium industry," he states.
Berezovsky escaped Russia after criticising President Putin. Abramovich says that Berezovsky asked him to buy his interests in ORT for 150 million dollars.
Abramovich discloses that there was a showdown at St Moritz airport in Switzerland in 2001 when Patarkatsishvili asked him to pay 1.3 billion dollars to Berezovsky.
Abramovich was also willing to pay off Patarkatsishvili. He states that he agreed to pay 585 million dollars "by way of final payment".
Abramovich denies that he helped himself to Berezovsky's interests in Sibneft and aluminium or that he threatened a friend of the exile.