Russian businessman Roman Abramovich transferred a company he controlled, with investments in the tens of millions of dollars, to a director of English football club Chelsea on the day Russia invaded Ukraine, British company documents show.
It was the second time Chelsea owner Abramovich transferred assets to a close associate before Britain and the European Union imposed sanctions on him this month.
After Britain was initially slower to impose sanctions than the United States and the European Union following the February 24 invasion, British lawmakers complained that the government was giving oligarchs time to move their assets out of the country before any restrictions were announced .
Abramovich did not respond to requests for comment left by Chelsea and his rep. A UK government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Abramovich, 55, became one of Russia’s most powerful entrepreneurs, mostly in oil and aluminum, during the chaotic aftermath of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Forbes put his net worth at more than $13 billion last month.
Britain and the EU imposed sanctions such as an asset freeze on Abramovich and hundreds of Russian individuals and organizations targeting those accused of supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Abramovich has denied having close ties with Putin.
A Reuters analysis of company records in London and Amsterdam revealed that Abramovich was previously listed as the “beneficial owner” of Cyprus-based Ervington Investments Limited. The company has made investments in at least eight companies, including Russia’s leading search engine Yandex, the filings showed.
On February 24, Eugene Tenenbaum, a Chelsea director described on the club’s website as one of Abramovich’s “closest associates”, took full control of Ervington, according to a filing on the London Stock Exchange. Neither Britain, the EU nor the US have imposed sanctions on Tenenbaum.
Tenenbaum said in a statement to Reuters that his company bought Ervington Investments from a trust where Abramovich and his children were previously the beneficiaries. He said the purchase from the trust, called Norma Investments, was in line with laws and regulations. Tenenbaum did not want to say how much he paid for the assignment.
“Ervington is a company I’ve worked with for many years,” he said. “I am well acquainted with the company’s investments and people, and the acquisition of Ervington gives me the opportunity to continue working with this company under my control and for the benefit of myself and the people.”
London-based lawyers said the move meant the assets held by Ervington would not be subject to the freeze of Abramovich’s other assets.
According to company records, Abramovich has relinquished control of two companies to business partners since the war began.
Also on the first day of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which Moscow is calling a special operation, Abramovich moved Norma Investments to another partner, David Davidovich, British company documents showed. The Norma transfer was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and confirmed on file.
Reuters could not immediately reach Davidovich for comment.
Britain imposed sanctions on Abramovich on March 10, saying he benefited from transactions with the Russian government and special tax breaks.
The British government said Evraz, a steel company in which Abramovich is the largest shareholder, could contribute to the war against Ukraine and supply steel for Russian tanks. Evraz has denied this, saying it only supplies steel for the infrastructure and construction sectors.
Evraz was not sanctioned by the British government. The London-listed shares were suspended by Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority after Abramovich was sanctioned. Tenenbaum was among 10 Evraz board members who resigned March 11 over the Abramovich sanctions, the company said.
Abramovich offered reigning European champions Chelsea for sale on March 2, but after the sanctions announcement the club were forced to operate under a special license and are now effectively controlled by the British government.
Several potential Chelsea buyers have expressed interest and the deadline for the first round of bids is Friday. Read the full story
Tenenbaum, 57, was born in Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union and has been on the Chelsea board for 19 years. Previously, he was head of corporate finance at Sibneft, an oil company sold by Abramovich in 2006.
Tenenbaum said in his statement that he disagreed with the way Abramovich was publicly characterized. The British government, when sanctioning Abramovich, said he had been a close ally of Putin for decades.
“I hope that the unjust measures imposed on Mr. Abramovich will be reassessed,” he said. “Unfortunately, as a UK citizen and due to the new regulations, I am unable to continue working with him personally.”
Ervington has served as an investment vehicle for Abramovich for at least eight years. It was among investors who invested $600 million in Yandex in 2020 and put money into Via, a ride-sharing app.
Tenenbaum moved to Canada at a young age and previously worked for accounting firm KPMG in Toronto, Moscow and London, according to the Chelsea website.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/abramovich-transferred-company-he-controlled-with-tens-of-millions-of-investments-to-chelsea-director-on-day-of-russian-invasion-41462756.html Abramovich transferred the company he controlled, with investments in the tens of millions, to the Chelsea director on the day of the Russian invasion