Roman Abramovich forced to return to Russia after ‘delay’ renewing UK visa

Abramovich often attends significant Chelsea matches but was not at Wembley on Saturday for the club’s FA Cup final victory over Manchester United

Lawrence Ostlere
Sunday 20 May 2018 14:56
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Who is Roman Abramovich?

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is yet to have his UK visa renewed after it reportedly ran out in April, forcing the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club to return to Russia.

Mr Abramovich was not at Wembley on Saturday for the club’s FA Cup final victory over Manchester United. His visa request has not been rejected by the home office, but authorities have been unusually slow over the process and are yet to offer an explanation for the delay, according to sources.

Security minister Ben Wallace said the Home Office did not routinely comment on individual cases. Mr Abramovich’s spokesperson also declined to comment.

Mr Abramovich was also absent from a hearing at the London High Court this week at which Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska was challenging the sale of a stake in mining giant Norilsk Nickel by Abramovich to Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin.

The London court was told the Chelsea owner was in Switzerland, a transcript of the hearing showed.

Mr Abramovich is Russia's 11th richest man with wealth of $10.8bn (£11bn), according to estimates by Forbes magazine. The 51-year-old made his fortune predominantly in the oil industry in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He bought Chelsea from Ken Bates in 2003 for £140m and invested heavily in the club, building its commercial power, establishing a new training complex and bringing in new players and staff.

He has developed a reputation for giving managers little time to prove themselves. But despite the high turnover of coaches, Chelsea have achieved great success under his ownership, winning five league titles, five FA Cups (the most recent this weekend), three League Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League.

Wealthy Russians have long favoured London as a place in which to live or do business. However, relations between the UK and Russia hit a low after London accused Moscow of poisoning former double-agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in March. Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning and retaliated in kind.

The accusation, which prompted countries around the world to expel scores of Russian diplomats, was followed by several statements from the British side, suggesting that the regime for Russian tycoons in London could be toughened.

Britain said in March it would look retrospectively at visas issued to wealthy foreign investors, including Russians, and consider whether action needed to be taken. About 700 Russians came to Britain between 2008 and 2015 with a so-called “Tier 1 visa”.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson also said in March that corrupt Russians who owe their wealth to their ties with President Vladimir Putin could be targeted by British police in retaliation for the Skripal attack.

Agencies contributed to this report

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