Leaked document says Roman Abramovich was ‘of interest’ to UK over ‘links to Russian state’

Labour’s Chris Bryant says the billionaire Chelsea FC boss should “no longer be able to own a football club in this country” and the government should seize his £152m London home

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Chris Bryant suggests seizing Abramovich’s assets

Roman Abramovich should “no longer be able to own a football club in this country” as leaked Home Home documents show he was “of interest” to the UK government in 2019 “due to his links to the Russian state”, an MP has said .

The Russian owner of Chelsea FC was identified as having a “link to illicit finance and malign activity”, Labour’s Chris Bryant warned ministers in the Commons, and remained “of interest” to the government as part of its strategy to combat Vladimir Putin’s hostile regime .

It comes as Boris Johnson gave an address to the nation condemning Russia for unleashing a “tidal wave of violence” against Ukraine without provocation or credible excuse.

Vowing a package of sanctions, the Prime Minister warned the parents of Russian soldiers that their children would “lose their lives” and Moscow would achieve “pariah status” following Putin ordering the invasion.

The grim news has sparked fresh questions about Mr Abramovich, a Russian oligarch who purchased Chelsea in 2003.

At Business questions, Mr Bryant told MPs the government should seize the billionaire’s £152m London home as government documents, he claimed, indicated he has been linked to “malign activity”.

He told MPs: “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’.

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“’HMG is focused on ensuring that his link 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 malignant 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 dispatch box next Monday for Home Office questions and I am sure he will be able to challenge her directly.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said on Thursday: “I couldn’t comment on individuals in that way, or certainly on leaked documents of that type.”

Mr Johnson was forced to correct the record earlier this week after he wrongly claimed in the Commons that Mr Abramovich was “already facing sanctions”.

He said in his address today that in Ukraine “innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population” as a result of Putin’s invasion.

He said: “A vast invasion is under way, by land, by sea and by air.”

Boris Johnson addresses the nation

The PM said a massive package of sanctions had been drawn up to “hobble” Russia’s economy – and vowed to reduce dependency on Russian oil and gas.

Mr Johnson added: “Our mission is clear. Diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.”

The PM was woken up before dawn with the news that Russian forces had mounted an assault on Ukraine from the north, the south and the east.

Warning sirens blared through Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in the early hours as Moscow began to attack by air, land and sea.

He warned Western leaders they would face “consequences they have never seen” if they tried to intervene.

At least 40 casualties have been reported, with footage emerging of queues of traffic fleeing the Ukrainian capital.

Mr Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the early hours of Thursday, before chairing an emergency COBRA meeting at 7.30am.

Ahead of the meeting, he said: “President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”

The PM is due to give a statement to MPs at 5pm on the latest package of sanctions – after the first round of action against three individuals and five banks was criticized for not going far enough.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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