The Bell has learned that Roman Abramovich’s UK investor visa expired several weeks ago, and the businessman was not given a new visa. Аn acquaintance of Abramovich and two sources from his inner circle confirmed it to The Bell. Yesterday, because of this, Abramovich was not able to attend the FA Cup Final, in which his football club Chelsea beat Manchester United to win the cup.
- Two people told The Bell that Abramovich’s previous visa expired more than three weeks ago, and he wasn’t given a new one. A source in the businessman’s inner circle insisted that there was not an official refusal to issue a visa, and that UK authorities are continuing to look into Abramovich’s application.
- Abramovich’s spokesman John Mann did not comment on this information. The Home Office, the UK government agency responsible for immigration, also refused to comment.
- According to data from the website ADS-B Exchange (which aggregates all global airplane transponder data), Abramovich’s personal Boeing 767 was last in London on April 1.
- Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in 2003 and since then he has spent a lot of time in the UK, but he never received permanent UK residence. In February, Swiss media reported that the billionaire tried to apply for permanent residence in Switzerland, and actually made his first application in that country in 2016, but the following summer he recalled his application for unknown reasons. Abramovich tried to sue U.S. media outlets which reported this information, but his case was denied.
- In January 2018, the British tabloid The Sun reported that Abramovich received permanent residence on Jersey, which has iеs own program for permanent residency for wealthy foreigners. Applicants must guarantee that they will pay no less than £145,000 in taxes per year in Jersey. Jersey is a British Crown dependancy but is not formally included in the United Kingdom, and a Jersey residence permit is not valid for the UK. A source close to the businessman confirmed that Abramovich has received permission from the authorities in Jersey to apply for permanent residence, but he has not yet used this option.
- At the end of March, Amber Rudd, at that time UK Home Secretary, announced that the country’s authorities will look into hundreds of visas which had been given to wealthy Russians. It was also reported that 700 Russian citizens would be checked, all of whom received Tier 1 investor visas between 2008 and 2015 (later, the system was reformed and issuance of investor visas was drastically reduced). It is not clear if Abramovich was one of the 700. A source close to Abramovich said that the authorities did not request any additional documentation from him.
- Investor visa is a popular means of moving to the UK. In order to qualify for it, one must invest at least £2 million in the UK economy (for example, in UK businesses, in securities or in local real estate). This guarantees a visa for 3 years and 4 months, which may then be extended. Five years after the visa was received, one may apply for permanent residence.
- Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also announced that they are already looking into a “wide circle of people”, but he didn’t name names. It is still not clear who specifically the British authorities will look into.
Quote: “People want to see the authorities hold wealthy individuals close to Vladimir Putin accountable, <…> those, whose wealth could be evidence of their relationships with him, — said Johnson. — We will come for their money. We are already doing so”.
- The UK government also warned that they might also use anti-money laundering legislation, including Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) to go after wealthy Russians. An UWO can lead to the arrest of foreign property with unclear formal ownership, the owner of which is then forced to prove the that his assets were acquired with “clean” funds.
What Abramovich owns in the UK
Last week, Britain’s The Sunday Times included Abramovich in its annual list of the richest people in the UK, estimating his net worth to be £9,3 billion ($12,5 billion), ranking him in 13th place.
- Abramovich owns more UK assets than any other Russian citizen, except possibly for Alisher Usmanov. His most valuable UK asset is Chelsea FC (Forbes values the club at $1.8 billion), which on Saturday won the FA Cup against Manchester United. In addition, the metallurgical holding Evraz is registered in London, in which the billionaire has a 30.76% stake (the market capital of the company on May 16 was $2.91 billion).
- The billionaire also owns real estate in the UK valued at several hundred million U.S. dollars. The most famous is a house on Kensington Palace Gardens, which is known locally as “Billionaire row”. Abramovich bought the house from the Russian Embassy for approximately $125 million.
Why the world should care
If UK authorities will refuse to issue a UK visa to Roman Abramovich, who invested hundreds of millions in Britain’s economy, this would be a very loud signal. For wealthy Russians, the UK and its offshore zones were a refuge for many years. Wealthy Russians used the UK to evade Russian state authorities, and they came to the UK to pay taxes, especially after Russian authorities tried to repatriate capital. Now Rusisans who were once sure of UK long-term visas or permanent residence will find things are getting more difficult.
Irina Malkova, Peter Mironenko