Abramovich wins libel case


LONDON, March 18 – Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich accepted "substantial" damages and a public apology in the High Court in London on Thursday over claims that he had a serious gambling problem.The allegations were printed in May 2009 in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, in an article titled "A black year for Abramovich as he loses a yacht at poker".

Sarah Toolan, lawyer for the newspaper’s publisher Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso, said the company "offers its sincere apologies to Mr Abramovich for the distress and embarrassment this article has caused".

"The defendant accepts that the allegations are untrue and ought never to have been published," she said.

Abramovich’s lawyer John Kelly said the report alleged that the oligarch had "suffered a heavy loss in a poker game and had been forced to hand over a luxury yacht worth half a million euros to cover his gambling debt".

"The report also alleged that Mr Abramovich’s poker playing had led to a crisis with his long-term partner Dasha Zhukova and that Mr Abramovich was now gambling online," he said.

Kelly said Abramovich, 43, who owns the English Premier League football club Chelsea after making his fortune in oil, would be donating "substantial damages" to charity.

Abramovich is the fourth-wealthiest Russian citizen and the world’s 50th-richest person with a net worth of 11.2 billion dollars, according to Forbes magazine’s 2010 rich list.