Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, told to prove his wealth is legitimate if he wants to return to UK
Billionaire Russian owner of Chelsea football club, Roman Abramovich is effectively banned from Britain until he can show his money is clean, after Whitehall launched a war on oligarchs.
This is coming months after tensions between the UK and Russia, in the wake of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. The Government blamed Russia for the attack, with Theresa May describing the incident as ‘despicable’ and expelling a number of Russian diplomats.
Daily Mail reported that other super-rich oligarchs in Britain, also face being caught up in the clampdown on foreign cash deemed ‘not conducive to public good’. Last night Britain’s tough stance on foreign money sparked a furious backlash from the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin’s spokesman condemned the UK’s ‘unfair and unfriendly’ approach to Russian businessmen.
The crackdown means Mr Abramovich, who is away from Britain and missed his club’s FA Cup win on Saturday, is being treated as a ‘new applicant’ for a UK visa, it is understood. Under new rules to stamp out ‘dirty money’, the oligarch – who is close to Mr Putin – will have to demonstrate that his fortune is above board.
Mr Roman Abramovich, Britain’s 13th-richest man who bought Chelsea in 2003, was last in the UK in early April. His Tier 1 investor visa has since expired and has so far not been renewed. Mr Abramovich is worth £9.3billion. Technically, he will need to show that at least £2million of his investment in the UK is from legal sources. He has held UK visas for many years, but the rules were tightened in 2015, after he obtained his most recent 40-month visa.
Under the new visa system, officials could refuse Mr Roman Abramovich a visa if there are mere “reasonable grounds to believe the applicant is not in control of [UK-held funds], funds were obtained unlawfully or by conduct which would be unlawful in the UK, or the character, conduct and associations of a third party providing the funds in granting is not conducive to the public good”.
The billionaire is one of only a few oligarchs to have successfully transitioned from Boris Yeltsin’s rule to Mr Putin’s, with the pair even talked about as having a “father and son” relationship. He was able to amass his fortune after he and another businessman with close ties to the Kremlin, Boris Berezovsky, were able to buy Siberian oil giant Sibneft for less than £148m, selling it later at a huge profit.
Theresa May’s spokesman said the government could not comment on individual cases, but added that it is a “logical conclusion” that someone who qualified under the old system may not under the new one. Downing Street also said that 700 Russians whose “tier 1” investor visas are yet to elapse will be looked at again under a review launched by former home secretary Amber Rudd.