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Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich sanctioned by UK government amid crackdown on Russian oligarchs

Last week, Mr Abramovich announced that he intends to sell Chelsea after almost 20 years of ownership, with net proceeds from the sale to be donated to “all victims of the war in Ukraine”.

Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government as part of attempts to crackdown on wealthy Russians with assets in the country.

The Chelsea Football Club owner is one of seven more Russian oligarchs who have had sanctions placed on them by ministers on Thursday.

A government document announcing the move said Mr Abramovich has had a “close relationship for decades” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the government of Russia,” it said.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich lifts the UEFA Champions League trophy after winning the final soccer match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Munich, May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle (GERMANY - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)
Image: Roman Abramovich is in the process of selling Chelsea Football Club which he has owned since 2003

Last week, Mr Abramovich announced that he intends to sell Chelsea after almost 20 years of ownership, and pledged net proceeds from the sale would be donated to “all victims of the war in Ukraine”. Advertisement

In a statement, he said the decision was “in the best interest of the club” amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions will come into force before the sale of the football club, which was previously estimated to be worth around £3bn, is able to take place.

Mr Abramovich will have his assets frozen under the move, will also face a prohibition on transactions with UK individuals and businesses and a travel ban forbidding him to enter the UK.

Jets and yachts owned or chartered by Mr Abramovich can been seized.

The outgoing premiership side owner’s net worth is an estimated £9.4bn and he is one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under Mr Putin.

The UK is the first nation to sanction Mr Abramovich, who the government has described as a “pro-Kremlin oligarch”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chukotka region governor and owner of Chelsea soccer club Roman Abramovich in Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with Chukotka region governor and owner of Chelsea soccer club Roman Abramovich in the Moscow Kremlin, May 27, 2005. At the beginning of the meeting, Abramovich noted that the region's gross product grew by 400% and the average salary reached 19,000 rubles during his term in office.
Image: Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Roman Abramovich and the other six oligarchs have ‘close links to Putin’ and are ‘complicit in his aggression’ With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression.

The other six Russian oligarchs who have been sanctioned by the UK government on Thursday are:

• Oleg Deripaska, who has stakes in En+ Group – a major extractives and energy company

• Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft – a Russian state oil company

• Andrey Kostin, chairman of VTB bank – the second largest bank in Russia

• Alexei Miller, chief executive of energy company Gazprom

• Nikolai Tokarev, president of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transneft

• Dmitri Lebedev, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Rossiya – widely considered to be The Kremlin’s private bank

The seven latest individuals to be sanctioned have a collective net worth of around £15bn.

The government has now sanctioned more than 200 individuals and entities.

Owner of Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich
Image: Roman Abramovich can no longer profit from the sale of Chelsea and faces a travel ban to the UK

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Mr Abramovich and the other Russian oligarchs sanctioned are “complicit” in Putin’s aggression.

“The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame,” she said.

“Our support for Ukraine will not waver. We will not stop in this mission to ramp up the pressure on the Putin regime and choke off funds to his brutal war machine.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: “There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries acknowledged the decision would have an impact on Chelsea Football Club, but said a special licence would enable it to continue operating.

However, according to Ms Dorries, the licence for continued operation is very narrow:

• Chelsea fixtures will be fulfilled

• Only people who already have tickets to upcoming matches at Stamford Bridge can attend

• Contracted staff and players will continue to be paid

• Mr Abramovich cannot profit from the sale of his club

• No new players can be signed

“To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club,” Ms Dorries posted on Twitter.

“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended. Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them.”

A statement issued by the government confirming the latest sanctions said the licence published will allow Chelsea to “continue playing matches and other football related activity which will in turn protect the Premier League, the wider pyramid, loyal fans and other clubs”.

It adds that the licence will be kept “under constant review”.

A Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) spokesperson said: “The CST notes with concern the government’s statement regarding the owner. Supporters must be involved in any conversation regarding ongoing impacts on the club and its global fan base.

“The CST implores the government to conduct a swift process to minimise the uncertainty over Chelsea’s future, for supporters and for supporters to be given a golden share as part of a sale of the club.”

Earlier this week, MPs worked fast-pace to pass the Economic Crime Bill which will come into force next week.

The Bill will significantly simplify the process of imposing sanctions and allow the UK to more easily sanction individuals and “stop oligarchs threatening the UK with multi-million pound lawsuits for damages at the taxpayers’ expense and allow the UK to mirror allies designations”.

Sky Sports News understands that Chelsea and government officials will meet on Thursday.

Sky News

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