As Russia’s self-exiled tycoon Berezovsky is pronounced dead, RT sits down with CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle to discuss who he was for Russia’s business, politics, how he made and reportedly lost his money and what may have caused his unexpected death.
RT: Let’s talk about Boris Berezovsky – a man, who made a fortune during the 90s – a turbulent time in Russia…
Peter Lavelle: He stole it. Let’s be clear here. He stole it. He didn’t make money.
RT: Was he a businessman or a manipulator?
PL: A manipulator. He used the system. What was happening in Russia? The political system had collapsed, the economy had collapsed, belief in authority had collapsed. Everything was in collapse. He picked up pieces all over the place. He didn’t generate wealth, he stole wealth. Let’s be clear about that.
RT: The rule of seven bankers that came into power…
PL: This is where the term “oligarch” came. And I think it was Berezovsky, who invented it. By 1996 a small number of people accumulated enormous wealth. But they wanted more. And they said to Yeltsin: “We’ll get you re-elected, but you have to give shares in state institutions.” Aeroflot, Sibneft, etc… And he did it! He gave the economy away. So, he ruled over very little, had no power. And Berezovsky was at the top of the hill. This is how he generated his wealth. He didn’t earn it.
RT: You are talking about a wealthy man. You met him didn’t you?
PL: Yes! Arrogant. He was full of himself. With a lot of security around him, enormous number of men of security. He was paranoid for good reason. There were attempts on his life. And he left, because he was worried for his life. And he took his money with him or at least a good part of it.
RT: He was a self-imposed oligarch exiled in London…
PL: It was an escape. He would have been charged with all kinds of criminal offences here. And then – revenge, because he was supposed to stay on top. He invented Putin – that’s nonsense! He didn’t do that. He took credit for something he didn’t do. He wanted revenge, he wanted to come back.
RT: Self-imposed exile, he wanted revenge, he certainly stayed a player in Russian politics…
PL: He tried to, he tried to… He always tried to create nonsense and chaos around him. But he didn’t really succeed in anything, really.
RT: Let’s bring it up to a more recent time now: Berezovsky meeting Abramovich in court. We are talking about billions – a massive legal dispute.
PL: It was a real huge gamble on the part of Berezovsky.
RT: Why was it a gamble?
PL: He didn’t have one shred of evidence, one sheet of paper to prove his point.
RT: He came to court with no paper work.
PL: Gamble. He knew the end was coming. He was running out of money.
RT: You think he was running out of money?
PL: He was broke.
RT: Because a lot of people question how much he was really worth.
PL: 3,1 billion? I doubt it ever!
RT: So, you think those court battles with Abramovich, maybe others, which basically brought him to…
PL: Step by step, by step. He died alone. Interesting... Alone. No friends. No respect.
RT: His wife had left him, he had lost all his money. He wasn’t able to come home, because we heard recently, that he’d been trying to come back to Moscow even pending a letter to…
RT: Do you think he wanted to come back or not?
PL: I think he wanted to come back and ask for forgiveness – no. It was never going to happen.