Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Roman Abramovich wins libel payout over gambling claim

Roman Abramovich
The article caused "distress and embarrassment", the court heard

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has accepted substantial libel damages over false newspaper allegations that he had a serious gambling problem.

The Russian billionaire also accepted a public apology at the High Court in London.

The legal action arose out of allegations published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica last May.

The amount of the payout was not revealed in court but Mr Abramovich's solicitor said it would go to charity.

Lawyer John Kelly told a judge in London that the claims had caused the "internationally well-known and wealthy" Russian businessman "distress and embarrassment".

Utter falsity

Mr Kelly said the report alleged that Mr Abramovich 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".

He added: "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."

The claims were damaging and untrue, said Mr Kelly.

He said: "Regrettably, these allegations were not put to Mr Abramovich or his representatives before publication. If they had been, the defendant would have been advised of the utter falsity of the allegations."

Mr Kelly said that although La Repubblica was primarily circulated in Italy, copies were also distributed in the UK.

Sarah Toolan, solicitor for La Repubblica's publisher, Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, said the defendant "offers its sincere apologies to Mr Abramovich for the distress and embarrassment this article has caused".

She told the judge: "The defendant accepts that the allegations are untrue and ought never to have been published."

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