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Queen's cousin gifted cash from Russian oligarch

Prince Michael, Queen Elizabeth II's cousin, received hundreds of thousands of pounds (dollars) in financial assistance from the self-exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky over several years, their representatives disclosed Sunday.

Both sides stressed that the payments — reported to total 320,000 pounds (US$514,320) — were "conducted properly" and privately between the men, who are said to be good friends.

Berezovsky, a once-influential Russian oligarch who sought asylum in Britain after falling out with President Vladimir Putin, never sought or obtained any benefit from the friendship, his lawyer Mark Hastings said. His statement came after The Sunday Times reported that the Russian tycoon had sent cash to the prince through offshore companies 56 times from 2002 to 2008.

The prince's spokesman said the financial support was private and has now ended. "Suffice to say that it was conducted properly and, for example, all appropriate tax was paid," said the spokesman, Simon Astaire. He did not immediately answer questions about what the funds were used for or why they were needed.

Michael is the queen's first cousin — his father was a younger brother of King George VI, the queen's father. He is also distantly related to Tsar Nicholas II and speaks fluent Russian.

He is not in the line of succession to the throne and receives no public money, according to Buckingham Palace. In 2002, the queen agreed to pay his rent at Kensington Palace when lawmakers clamored to have him and his wife evicted because they were paying only a nominal rate.

Details of the financial support Michael received were disclosed in documents ahead of an upcoming court case in which Berezovsky, who has lived in Britain since 2003, is suing the family of a former business partner.

The tycoon is also involved in an expensive U.K. legal battle against fellow Russian oligarch and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.