Chelsea’s Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich gets Israeli citizenship after UK visa delay
Britain said this month it would review long-term visas of rich Russians after the March poisonings of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea soccer club who has found himself without a visa to Britain, took Israeli citizenship and will move to Tel Aviv where he has bought a property, an Israeli media report said.
Abramovich has been counted as one of the richest men in Britain since he bought the English Premier League soccer club in 2003.
His British visa expired last month and sources said it was taking longer than usual to get it renewed. The British government has declined to comment on his case.
The Ynet website that belongs to Israel’s biggest selling daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, said Abramovich, who is Jewish, jetted into Tel Aviv on Monday and had received documents confirming his status as an Israeli citizen.
An Israeli official told Channel 10 News that Abramovich submitted a citizenship request “like any other person” with Israel’s Moscow embassy and was accepted.
A spokesman for Abramovich also declined to comment.
Israel grants citizenship to any Jew wishing to move there, and a passport can be issued immediately. Israeli passport holders can enter Britain without a visa for short stays, although they require visas to work there.
Abramovich formally has residency in Jersey in the Channel Islands, a tax haven, but has never taken it up.
Relations between Moscow and London have been strained since the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in March, an act Britain has blamed on Russia but in which the Kremlin denies any involvement.
There have been calls in Britain for sanctions that would hurt super-rich Russians with homes in London.
Abramovich has been a regular visitor to Israel and Ynet said he had bought a property that was formerly a hotel, in an old Tel Aviv neighbourhood close to the Mediterranean shore.
The Sunday Times put his wealth at 9.3 billion pounds (US$12.5 billion) on its Rich List this year.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press