Roman Abramovich appears to be on a mission to get his assets out of Europe as sanctions tighten.
His £430million superyacht Solaris is heading south, apparently towards Turkey, after docking in Montenegro on Sunday. Previously, he was in a repair yard in Barcelona – and had he remained there, he might well have been seized by now.
Abramovich has been named on the European Union’s fourth sanctions package which will see assets frozen for those Russian super-rich believed to be related to President Vladimir Putin.
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Due to sanctions passed last week, any money or property held by the owner of Chelsea FC in the UK is now frozen. His shares on the London Stock Exchange cannot be sold and will not pay dividends, and he can no longer benefit from the planned £3bn sale of the club. It is also forbidden to enter the United Kingdom.
Abramovich’s return trip to Russia
Abramovich’s second superyacht, Eclipse, is off the coast of Algeria. Its nearest European port is Italy – where another oligarch, Andrey Melnichenko, recently had a £444million superyacht seized by authorities under EU sanctions.
On Sunday evening, Abramovich took a whirlwind trip to Israel, of which he is a citizen. Israel currently has no sanctions against Russian oligarchs and the billionaire owns property in the country.
He was pictured at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon before flying out for a brief layover in Istanbul. Turkey is another possible safe destination for Russian money. From Istanbul his private jet Gulfstream G650ER – registered LX-Ray – flew to Moscow in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak says he met Abramovich last week to discuss buying Chelsea. A spokesman for Mr Bayrak said another meeting was scheduled for later this week.
Although the UK government has frozen £3.2billion of his UK assets, including the west London club, it’s believed Abramovich could still play a part in the sale, but only on the basis that he does not personally benefit from it.
It is unclear whether Mr. Bayrak, who has made his money in energy, real estate and cryptocurrency, has the funds to make the purchase.
What’s going on with the sale of Chelsea?
The UK government are open to a sale and want to minimize the impact on the club and its fans, but Chelsea are required to approach the government with a proposal before a new license is granted. Its main condition is that Abramovich does not benefit financially from any sales.
Read more: How sanctions against Abramovich will affect Chelsea fans
Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on March 2, pledging to write off £1.5bn of debt and redirect all proceeds to a new foundation to benefit victims of the war in Ukraine.
The government sanctioned him, claiming to have proven his direct links to Mr. Putin’s regime. Abramovich has always denied any association.
On Tuesday, 370 additional new sanctions were announced by the British government, bringing the total to more than 1,000 people, entities and subsidiaries now under Russia’s sanctions regime since the invasion of Ukraine.
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Nigel Huddleston, the sports minister, told a committee of MPs: “We are working with Chelsea and the fans to ensure that the measures we have put in place primarily affect Roman Abramovich and ensure he does not take advantage of them, while ensuring that, where possible, we can reduce the impact on the fans and ensure that Chelsea can continue.
“Can the government allow any entity to fail? Yes, whether it’s sports, football or whatever, but what we want to do is make sure that the impact of sanctions affects those we want.”
Looking to the future, he told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Selection Committee: “We recognize that there is a need for further refinement and testing of more robust owners and administrators and the integrity element of this is something that is pushed.”
In other developments:
• Over 100,000 Britons express interest in hosting Ukrainian refugees
• UK announces sanctions against another 350 Russian nationals and entities
• UK bans luxury goods exports to Russia and raises import duties on goods including vodka
• Briton who traveled to war zone to join military fight against Russia quits fears of ‘suicide mission’
• Employee interrupts Russian news program with anti-war slogan