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Roman Abramovich's UK visa delayed after UK government orders review of wealthy Russians in Britain

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich

Roland Oliphant

The Home Office is yet to renew Roman Abramovich's UK visa after the government ordered a review of the immigration status of hundreds of wealthy Russians in Britain.

Mr Abramovich, a Russian billionaire best known in Britain as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, applied for a renewal when his previous visa expired last month but has not received a decision, a source familiar with the matter told the Daily Telegraph.

The source said the renewal process was taking longer than usual but there was no suggestion it would be denied.

Earlier the Bell, a Russian website, cited three sources close to the oligarch saying he has not received a new visa, despite filing an application as usual.

While there is no suggestion that the delay is connected to any wrongdoing, it comes amid increased government scrutiny of rich Russian individuals in Britain. 

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, told MPs in March that she had instructed Home Office officials to review how 700 wealthy Russians who were issued Tier 1 investor visas before 2015 acquired their fortunes.

The move followed the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer who had spied for Britain, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury in March. Both Skripals survived the attack.

The Government has blamed the Kremlin for ordering the attempted murder and said it would investigate Russian wealth as part of its response.

Mr Abramovich, who is worth an estimated £8 billion, made his fortune in Russia's oil industry in the 1990s. The billionaire, 51, has been a frequent visitor to London since he bought Chelsea Football Club in 2003.

Unlike some other wealthy Russian investors, he never took UK residency but has continued to visit the UK on a Tier-1 visa.

He was not at Wembley on Saturday night, when Chelsea defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup final. 

Mr Abramovich has not attended every Chelsea cup final in the past, and it is not clear whether the delay in issuing travel documents affected his travel plans.

Earlier this year Swiss newspapers reported that he had twice applied for residency in Switzerland.

In January the island of Jersey offered him residency as a high value individual.

The same month, he was included on a list of officials and oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin that could serve as a basis for future US sanctions.

Although the “name-and-shame” list of 210 people published by the US Treasury did not stipulate any punitive measures, it was drawn up as part of sanctions legislation reluctantly signed by Donald Trump in August. 

Tier 1 visas are open to applicants from outside the European Economic Area who are willing to invest at least £2 million in the UK economy.

The visas are valid for three years and four months, and can be extended another two years before requiring renewal.

The Home Office website says applicants can expect a decision on an application within three weeks.

A spokesman for Mr Abramovich declined to comment.

Ben Wallace, the Home Office security minister, said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases."

He added: "In 2014 and 2015 we took action to tighten up the Tier 1 investor route. This included introducing new powers to refuse applications where there are reasonable grounds to believe funds have been obtained unlawfully. As a result of these reforms, applications reduced by 84 per cent.

“As the Prime Minister and former Home Secretary made clear, we are taking another look at how the route operates and are undertaking further checks on investors who came to the UK through this route before the reforms were introduced.”

Online Editors

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