Roman Abramovich faces being sanctioned BEFORE '£3bn' Chelsea FC sale

Roman Abramovich faces being sanctioned by UK government BEFORE ‘£3bn’ sale of Chelsea FC

  • The Chelsea FC owner could face sanctions as early as Tuesday next week
  • The Government’s Economic Crime Bill is now heading through Parliament
  • Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said it could be approved by Monday
  • The bill contains a raft of measures designed to target wealthy Russians 
  • Abramovich has escaped sanctions thus far but is likely to be targeted as soon as the bill is passed 

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich may face sanctions before he is able to complete the sale of Chelsea Football Club after the Government announced it could target ‘hundreds’ of wealthy Russians in the UK as early as next Tuesday.

Billionaire Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003, but announced on Wednesday, March 2 that he would be selling the Premier League club for a reported £3 billion in light of his country’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Last week, American merchant bank The Raine Group, with whom Abramovich is partnering to oversee the sale, set a deadline of March 15 for prospective buyers to submit formal bids. 

But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss today declared that the Government’s Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill – reinforced with new measures designed to strengthen the UK’s sanctions regime against wealthy Russians – is expected to be approved by Parliament one day prior.

If the legislation does indeed make its way through the House of Commons and the House of Lords by Monday, March 14 as expected, Abramovich could be hit with huge sanctions before he is able to accept any bids for his football club – though he denies there are any grounds on which to sanction him.

It comes after the tycoon’s £330 million superyacht ‘Eclipse’ left the Dutch island of St Maarten in the Caribbean last Thursday and set sail for international waters, in a likely attempt to avoid being seized by authorities.

Billionaire Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003, but announced on Wednesday, March 2 that he would be selling the Premier League club for a reported £3 billion shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss today declared that the Government’s Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill – reinforced with new measures designed to strengthen the UK’s sanctions regime against wealthy Russians – is expected to be approved one day prior to the deadline for prospective buyers of Chelsea FC to submit their bids

The private luxury yacht of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Eclipse (pictured here in 2015) has set sail for international waters, likely to avoid being seized by authorities. Eclipse is one of two superyachts owned by Abramovich

Abramovich (pictured above with Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2016) is reported to have been effectively barred from living in Britain ever again, but is yet to have been targeted with specific economic sanctions and seizure of his assets

Last week, American merchant bank The Raine Group, with whom Abramovich is partnering to oversee the sale of Chelsea Football Club, set a deadline of March 15 for prospective buyers to submit formal bids (Stamford Bridge pictured)

The UK has faced criticism over the speed and breadth of the sanctions it has announced, with some of its international partners having gone further and acted faster.

Almost 100 Russian oligarchs, politicians and companies around the world have been sanctioned by the EU or US, but not by Britain, which has thus far brought sanctions against a meagre total of 13 Russian elites.

Liz Truss has argued that sanctions laws in the EU, Canada and the US are ‘less onerous’ than the ones in Britain, and has reportedly told MPs that London law firms are pushing against restrictions on their oligarch clients.

Today though the Foreign Secretary announced the Government will soon have renewed legal powers to begin implementing tougher sanctions on wealthy Russians with assets in the UK, once the newly-reinforced Economic Crime Bill is passed.

‘If Parliament passes the legislation by Monday, March 14, we will be able to sanction the hundreds of individuals by next Tuesday, March 15,’ said Truss, while Home Secretary Priti Patel declared the bill ‘will send a very strong signal that the UK will not be home for corruption’.  

Patel also said the Government will bring forward a second Economic Crime Bill in the next parliamentary session with further measures ‘because we simply cannot get all the measures in right now’. 

She said: ‘We’ve focused on the ones that will have the greatest impact and the greatest enablement.’ 

Amid mounting pressure in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the 55-year-old Abramovich pledged to write off £1.5 billion of his football club’s loans, and said that proceeds of its sale will go to providing aid to victims of the conflict – both Ukrainian and Russian. 

The oligarch has thus far escaped the sanctions levied at some of his wealthy countrymen.

But should the Economic Crime Bill be passed next Monday as the Foreign Secretary expects, Abramovich could face a barrage of sanctions and the seizing of his assets well before he is able to complete the sale of Chelsea FC.

He denies there are any grounds to sanction him. 

Since announcing his intentions to sell the football club and donate the proceeds to charity, Chelsea’s owner has appeared determined that the sale will follow standard procedure and timescale. 

The deadline for bids from prospective buyers was set for Tuesday, March 15 – one day after the Government’s bill is expected to be written into law. 

But even if Abramovich were to accept a bid for his football club before then, it would likely take months for a sale of such magnitude to be completed, making Chelsea FC extremely vulnerable to sanctions as his most valuable British asset.

Abramovich is worth £10.4bn according to Forbes, and owns a £150m Kensington mansion, a £22m penthouse, and more than £1.2bn of yachts, private jets, helicopters and supercars based in Britain and around the world

Abramovich is said to be looking to offload his 15-bedroom mansion at Kensington Palace Gardens, valued at more than £150m 

The tycoon also owns a three-storey penthouse at Chelsea Waterfront, worth an estimated £22m 

Abramovich is already thought to have started a fire sale of his British-based assets in an attempt to recoup major profits before he can be hit by Government sanctions. 

Last week, Labour MP Chris Bryant – using parliamentary privilege to avoid legal action – alleged the tycoon is selling his home and an apartment because he is ‘terrified of being sanctioned’.

Abramovich is worth £10.4bn, according to Forbes, and owns a £150m Kensington mansion, a £22m penthouse, and more than £1.2bn of yachts, private jets, helicopters and supercars based in Britain and around the world, in addition to Chelsea FC – his most prized asset. 

Abramovich has never held UK citizenship, and made his fortune selling assets purchased from the state when the USSR broke up. 

He vehemently denies being close to the Kremlin or doing anything that would merit sanctions, but he is known to be a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been pictured alongside him on several occasions. 

Though Abramovich has evaded sanctions so far, immigration officials are reportedly under instructions to make it impossible for him to base himself in the UK in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

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