Roman Abramovich blocked from selling Chelsea for destabilising Ukraine

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Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich (pictured above with Russian president Vladimir Putin) is reported to have been effectively barred from living in Britain ever again

Roman Abramovich’s hopes of a quickfire sale of Chelsea Football Club have been ended after the UK government froze his assets for his ties with Russia president Vladimir Putin.

The Russian put the Blues up for sale last week and he had valued the club at around £4billion.

Abramovich bought the club in 2003 and he’s pumped more than £1.5bn into Chelsea during a trophy-laden 18-and-a-half years at the club.

The 55-year-old had hoped to conclude a deal this week but the UK government have finally decided to sanction him given his connection to Putin.

‘Roman Abramovich is a prominent Russian businessman and pro-Kremlin oligarch,’ a government statement read.

‘Abramovich associated with a person who is or has been involved in destabilising Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades.

‘This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the Government of Russia. This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to Abramovich, buying and selling shares from and to the state at favourable rates, and the contracts received in the run up to the FIFA 2018 World Cup.

‘Therefore, Abramovich has received preferential treatment and concessions from Putin and the Government of Russia. Abramovich is also associated with a person who is or has been involved in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia, namely: former First Deputy Prime Minister, and current Chairman of the Management Board for VEB, Igor Shuvalov; former General Director of Gazprom Investment Holdings, Alisher Usmanov, both of whom were sanctioned on 3 March 2022 for being involved persons in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Russian government through carrying on business in a sector of strategic significance to the Russian government.

‘Abramovich is associated with these individuals through close business relationships and mutual assistance, including Abramovich financing Shuvalov’s trust and the subsequent loans from Shuvalov to enable Usmanov’s purchase of a British mill. Furthermore, Abramovich is or has been involved in destabilising Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, via Evraz PLC, a steel manufacturing and mining company in which Abramovich has a significant shareholding and over which Abramovich exercises effective control.

‘Evraz PLC is or has been involved in providing financial services, or making available funds, economic resources, goods or technology that could contribute to destabilising Ukraine or undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine – which includes potentially supplying steel to the Russian military which may have been used in the production of tanks. Abramovich exercises effective control of Evraz PLC given his significant shareholding and the shareholdings of his close associates who it is reasonable to expect Abramovich could direct through his close ties with Abramov and Shvidler, as well as his power to nominate directors of the board. Abramovich is or has been involved in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia, as Abramovich and Evraz PLC carry on business in sectors of strategic significance to the Government of Russia – namely the construction, defence and extractive sectors.’

Speaking after the sanctions were announced, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK can no longer provide a ‘safe haven’ for those that have supported Putin.

‘There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine,’ said Johnson.

‘Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.’

In the short-term, the sanctions mean Chelsea can no longer sell match tickets or merchandise to supporters. Only season-ticket holders will be permitted to attend matches.

Looking further ahead, the club will be banned from signing or selling players and no new contracts can be agreed.

This will have a significant effect on Thomas Tuchel’s squad, with the likes of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta out of contract at the end of the season.

Speaking last week, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters raised doubts over Abramovich’s ability to sell Chelsea if he is sanctioned by the UK Government.

‘I don’t think that will work,’ said Masters.

‘I think the quickest [sale] we have ever done is 10 days, that’s not to say that record can’t be beaten but normally it takes a number of weeks.

‘It all depends on the complexity of the deal and the number of potential owners. Provided the information is easily digestible, easily understandable and gives us all the right answers it can be done relatively quickly.’

A number of interested parties have come forward to state their interest in purchasing Chelsea and there was widespread confidence that Abramovich could be convinced to sell below his asking price, particularly given the need for a quick sale.

Turkish billionaire Muhsin Bayrak claimed earlier this week that he had made significant progress in talks with Abramovich and that the Russian was confident a deal could be concluded.

‘We have reached a certain stage. Our law and finance department will start talks with theirs in London on Thursday.

‘People are talking about it, we made some progress in the talks, and the world believes we have a 90% chance of completing the deal. Abramovich thinks the same.’-Metro