LONDON – The British government has stepped up pressure on businessmen linked to the Kremlin, imposing sanctions on a handful of Russian oligarchs, including Roman Abramovich,
billionaire owner Chelsea Football Club.
It was the first time any Western government had moved on Mr. Abramovich. His assets, including Chelsea, high-end properties in London and mega yachts, helped turn him into one of the Notable few Now facing scrutiny by officials in the wake Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have led global efforts to punish and pressure the Russian president
through the invasion Lots of penalties on the country’s banks and central bank, as well as through restrictions on oil purchases in some cases and by targeting the assets of Putin’s associates, Russian government officials and businessmen seen as close to Moscow.
The UK government said on Thursday it had punished Mr Abramovich for his “favorite treatment and concessions from Putin” and said the UK-listed steel company he partially owns supplies steel to the Russian military. A spokeswoman for Mr. Abramovich did not respond to a request for comment.
The British government said Mr. Abramovich’s net worth is estimated at 9.4 billion pounds, or 12.4 billion dollars. The government said his assets in the UK will now be frozen, and he will be banned from traveling to Britain. Mr. Abramovich has already said he is in the process of trying to sell Chelsea, and a person familiar with the matter said he has put his London property on the market.
The government said it would introduce a special license to allow Chelsea to continue operating, despite the sanctions. The sale of the club and Mr. Abramovich’s homes is now banned. A license must be given by the UK Treasury to allow any sale. According to the government, Mr. Abramovich will not be allowed to receive any proceeds from the sale.
Sanctions effectively lead to Mr Abramovich’s exile: Officials have said he cannot pay for electricity for his property or buy a cup of coffee in the UK.
The UK also announced a set of sanctions against several other Russian oligarchs, including businessman Oleg Deripaska. Igor Sechin, CEO of
; Andrey Kostin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of VTB Bank; and Alexei Miller, CEO of the Russian energy giant
The announcement represents Britain’s largest sanctions campaign to date. Representatives of these individuals were not immediately available for comment.
UK agencies, like those of other governments including the US, have powers to temporarily freeze the assets of individuals or entities under their jurisdiction, without proof of guilt. Owners are usually prevented from selling or profiting from them until the penalties are successfully lifted or challenged. Governments usually can’t move to own the assets, though, until often after lengthy legal procedures that require proof of a breach of the law. However, the UK government is considering laws that would give itself powers to seize sanctioned assets.
Across the West, Russian oligarchs are facing an unprecedented coordinated attack on the businesses they created in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. anger in Invasion of Ukraine– and the hope that sanctions would pressure Mr. Putin to change course – sparked a hunt for the assets of these oligarchs by the American, British and European governments. London Become the focus of scrutiny.
Since the mid-1990s, it has been a welcome recipient of Russian investment. but in the wake Invasion of UkraineBritain’s parliament is voting through emergency legislation to facilitate an asset freeze for those with ties to the Kremlin. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said this would enable the country to sanction hundreds of individuals by March 15.
“There can be no safe haven for those who supported Putin’s vicious attack on Ukraine,” the British prime minister said.
The British government has recently been criticized for failing to punish enough oligarchs, giving them space, critics said, to sell assets or transfer them to partners. Officials said British officials had previously stopped sanctioning Messrs Abramovich and Deripaska, partly because of caution about protracted legal battles. New laws set to take effect next week will limit the amount of damages the government may incur if people sue against the penalties.
Representatives of Mr. Deripaska and
PLC, the aluminum giant that partially owns it, was not immediately available for comment. A person familiar with the matter said Mr. Deripaska had not been in London for more than two years. Mr. Abramovich once maintained a relatively high profile in London, attending Chelsea matches, for example. It has rarely been seen here though in recent years.
To underscore the difficulties authorities may have in hunting down oligarchs’ properties, many are family owned or through a complex system of offshore companies. The house Mr Deripaska used in the exclusive Belgravia area of London is owned by a family member, according to the person familiar with the matter.
Oligarch Alexei Mordashov, who is included in EU sanctions but not in the UK, transferred control of his largest stake in British mining company Nord Gold Plc to his wife, according to company files, days after Putin ordered troops into Ukraine. Nord Gold declined to comment.
In a statement, Mr. Mordashov said, “It has absolutely nothing to do with the emergence of the current geopolitical tension, and I do not understand why the European Union has imposed sanctions on me.” A spokeswoman declined to comment.
Mr. Abramovich sold many of his early business interests, which included energy giant now owned by the natural gas company Gazprom. Despite this, Mr. Abramovich still owns about 2% of MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, one of the world’s largest producers of important metals, and 29% of
PLC, a London-listed steel and mining company with operations in Russia, the United States and elsewhere. The United Kingdom said on Thursday that Eyrez provided steel to the Russian military. Mr. Abramovich has also invested in a number of startup companies, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority said it has temporarily suspended Evraz from trading pending clarification of the impact of the UK sanctions. Later Thursday afternoon, Evraz said he did not believe the sanctions against Mr. Abramovich would apply to the company. She said that over the past five years, two directors have been appointed by Mr. Abramovich, and therefore she does not consider him to be someone exercising effective control over the company. Evraz said it only supplies steel to the infrastructure and construction sectors.
Mr. Abramovich’s acquisition of Chelsea FC in 2003 marked the beginning of an even bigger London bragging. He bought several luxury properties, including a 15-bedroom mansion on a street in London called Millionaire’s Row. He also bought several pieces of art and one of the largest yachts in the world.
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This 553-foot yacht, called the Eclipse, is currently located near Philipsburg, in the Netherlands Antilles, in the Caribbean, according to ship-tracking websites FleetMon and MarineTraffic. According to tracking websites, another of his yacht, My Solaris, 460 feet long, set sail earlier this week from Barcelona, where it has docked for three months. As of Thursday, the ship was sailing south of the port of Ragusa in Sicily.
Mr. Abramovich, a college dropout who was orphaned at a young age, made his money from the oil trade. He joined forces with Boris Berezovsky, a mathematician turned entrepreneur with close ties to former President Boris Yeltsin. The two combined their oil interests to create OAO Sibneft, which was later privatized.
The deal turned Mr. Abramovich into a billionaire. after creation
He went on to help found Rusal, the world’s second largest aluminum group.
The UK government has said that Mr. Abramovich and Mr. Putin have had a close relationship for decades and that the billionaire has benefited financially from the relationship. This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to him, the purchase and sale of shares to and from the Russian state at favorable prices and contracts his companies received in the run-up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the government said.
Benoit Faucon contributed to this article.
Corrections and amplifications
Roman Abramovich acquired Chelsea in 2003. An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the football club as Chelsea. (corrected March 10)
write to Max Colchester at [email protected]
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