By David Lynch and Richard Wheeler, PA
Roman Abramovich should no longer be able to own Chelsea Football Club, according to an MP.
Labour former minister Chris Bryant made the demand in the UK House of Commons as he asked questions about the UK government’s response to the crisis in Ukraine.
Speaking at business questions, Mr Bryant said: “I have got hold of a leaked document from 2019 from the Home Office which says in relation to Mr Abramovich – ‘As part of HMG’s Russia strategy aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interest to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices’.
“‘An example of this is Abramovich admitting in court proceedings that he paid for political influence.
“Therefore HMG is focused on ensuring individuals linked to illicit finance and malign activity are unable to base themselves in the UK and will use the relevant tools at its disposal, including immigration powers to prevent this’.
“That is nearly three years ago and yet remarkably little has been done in relation.
“Surely Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country?
“Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets including his £152 million home?
“And making sure that other people who have had Tier 1 Visas like this are not engaged in malign activity?”
Commons Leader Mark Spencer replied: “He will know under the sanctions passed in the House this week there is the opportunity for the Government to take very strong action against high-profile Russian individuals who are of concern.
“He will be aware that the Home Secretary will be at this despatch box next Monday for Home Office questions and I am sure he will be able to challenge her directly.”
Mr Abramovich is also the largest stakeholder in London-listed Russian-focused mining company Evraz, with a stake of 29 per cent.
It has been one of the hardest-hit companies on the FTSE 100 on Thursday, falling nearly 30 per cent at points.
The drop has seen the businessman’s paper fortune drop by nearly £300 million as a result.
Shares in the company have fallen 71 per cent so far this year.
On Wednesday, prime minister Boris Johnson issued a correction after he wrongly claimed that Mr Abramovich was the subject of targeted sanctions by the UK government.
The prime minister tabled a written ministerial statement in the House of Commons to clarify such measures had not been imposed on the Russian-Israeli billionaire businessman.
On Tuesday, Mr Johnson told MPs that Mr Abramovich was “already facing sanctions”, a claim disputed by Mr Bryant, among others.
Mr Johnson said on Wednesday: “Roman Abramovich has not been the subject of targeted measures.
“More generally anyone who comes to this country on an Israeli passport is a non-visa national.
“Israelis are required to obtain a visa if they want to live, work or study in the UK.”
Mr Abramovich had issues around his entrepreneurial visa in 2018.
In October 2021, the businessman’s spokesperson confirmed he travelled to London as an Israeli citizen, therefore entering the United Kingdom without the need for a visa.
Mr Abramovich’s spokesperson has been approached for comment.
Downing Street would not be drawn on the claims about Mr Abramovich made in the Commons.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I couldn’t comment on individuals in that way or on leaked documents of that type.”