Sources say Russian billionaire with close ties to Israel hasn’t had proper papers for three weeks, amid diplomatic spat between Moscow and London; spokesman declines comment
Russian state media on Sunday cited reports that Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich’s British visa has run out, while his spokesman declined to comment.
The New York Times also reported on the matter, saying Abramovich had missed his team’s victorious game at the FA Cup final against Manchester United on Saturday, due to the visa troubles.
Russian state news agency TASS and other media picked up a report on The Bell website, which said an acquaintance of Abramovich and two in his inner circle had told it the billionaire’s British visa ran out three weeks ago and he is waiting for a new one.
Amid a spiraling diplomatic crisis between Britain and Russia over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent, there have been calls in Britain for sanctions that would hurt super-rich Russians who have homes in London.
British Security Minister Ben Wallace in February said Russian oligarchs suspected of corruption would be forced to explain their wealth in a new clampdown on organised crime
Abramovich formally has residency in Jersey in the Channel Islands, a tax haven, but has never taken it up. The Sunday Times put his wealth at 9.3 billion pounds ($12.5 billion) on its Rich List this year. He has owned Chelsea since 2003.
Roman Abramovich, Russian oil billionaire and owner of English FA Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club, walks at the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City Tuesday Feb. 7, 2006.(AP)
Abramovich, who is Jewish, is also a frequent visitor to Israel and owns a hotel in tel Aviv.
Abramovich’s spokesman John Mann told AFP he could not comment because “it’s a personal issue.” Mann gave the same response to TASS.
The Home Office in London told AFP it would not comment on the report because it does not comment on individual cases.
The Bell published the Russian-language report on Sunday. It said it had received “no comment” responses from Abramovich’s spokesman and the Home Office.
The report quoted a source in Abramovich’s entourage as saying that Britain had not refused to issue a new visa to Abramovich but was considering his application.
Russia’s Sport-Express website cited sources in Abramovich’s entourage as saying that it had taken a long time for his application to be processed but he was due to get a new British visa shortly.
RBC media group quoted a source close to Abramovich as also saying the application process was taking longer than usual and “the reason for this is unclear.”
The Bell was started by the former editor-in-chief of RBC media group, Elizaveta Osetinskaya. Under her leadership, RBC was known for high-profile investigations.