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Deripaska Can’t Call Russian Crime Expert in U.K. Suit

Oleg Deripaska, formerly Russia’s wealthiest man, lost a court ruling over presenting expert evidence about Russian organized crime in a lawsuit brought against him by a former business partner.

Michael Cherney is suing Deripaska for at least $3 billion in the High Court in London claiming he failed to honor an agreement concerning stakes in two aluminum companies. Deripaska is co-owner of Moscow-based United Co. Rusal, the world’s biggest aluminum company.

Cherney was a “representative of Russian organized crime,” who infiltrated his business as part of a “protection racket,” Deripaska’s lawyer Ali Malek said at a hearing today. Malek said a judge should hear evidence from an organized crime expert at a trial over the dispute, scheduled to take place in 2012. The expert would testify on the “endemic” criminality that infected Russian business in the 1990s, he said.

Justice Nigel Teare ruled today that expert evidence on the issue isn’t necessary, as information about the nature of Russian organized crime doesn’t help to determine whether Cherney was “part and parcel” of it.

Cherney’s lawyer, David Foxton, said in an interview after the hearing that his client denies the allegations and has “nothing to do” with organized crime.

“Mr. Cherney claims to have been a business partner of Mr. Deripaska and alleges he is entitled to a stake in UC Rusal, for which he is seeking compensation,” Deripaska’s spokesman David Osborn said in an e-mailed statement. Cherney’s claim is “baseless, riddled with holes and contradictory.”

Deripaska will continue to pursue his application to allow evidence about organized crime to be introduced, the spokesman said.

The case is 2006-1218 Michael Cherney v. Oleg Deripaska.

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