Oliver Holmes, Kevin Rawlinson — The Guardian May 28, 2018
Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea football club, has been granted Israeli citizenship and will move to Tel Aviv, an Israeli government spokesperson has said.
Abramovich had faced unusually long delays in renewing his UK visa, which had expired, sources told the Reuters news agency. The British government has declined to comment on his case.
Israel’s interior ministry confirmed the offer of citizenship on a local television station on Monday. “Roman Abramovich arrived at the Israeli embassy in Moscow like any other person,” an Israeli government spokesperson told Channel 10. “He filed a request to receive an immigration permit, his documents were checked according to the law of return, and he was indeed found eligible.”
Abramovich’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the Ynet website, which belongs to Israel’s biggest-selling daily newspaper, Yedioth Aharonoth, Abramovich flew to Tel Aviv on Monday and received documents confirming his status as an Israeli citizen. He has reportedly bought a property in the city.
Israel grants citizenship to any Jewish person wishing to move there and a passport can be issued immediately. Israeli passport holders can enter the UK without a visa for short stays, although they require visas to work.
Abramovich, who is Jewish and has been a regular visitor to Israel, has donated millions to Israeli research and development projects and invested in local firms. Ynet said he had bought a former hotel in Tel Aviv, on the Mediterranean coast.
Israel’s media has speculated for days that the businessman was seeking citizenship. The Times of Israel said Abramovich would be exempt from paying tax in Israel for 10 years and would not need to explain the sources of his wealth in that time. Worth £8.6bn, according to Forbes magazine, Abramovich would instantly become the richest Israeli.
It is believed the British government would have required some financial disclosures if Abramovich’s UK visa was to be renewed.
There have also been suggestions that Abramovich fell foul of tighter regulations imposed in 2015. His failure to secure a new tier 1 visa, which allows anyone who invests more than £2m in the British economy to stay for 40 months, comes at a time of heightened tensions between the Russian and UK governments.
Relations have been strained since the poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March, an act Britain has blamed on Russia but in which the Kremlin denies any involvement.