By Andrew MacAskill and Paul Sandle
LONDON, March 18 (Reuters) – Russian businessman Roman Abramovich transferred a company he controlled with tens of millions of dollars of investments to a director of English soccer club Chelsea on the day Russia invaded Ukraine, UK corporate documents showed.
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 than the United States and the European Union in imposing sanctions following the Feb. 24 invasion, British lawmakers complained that the government was giving oligarchs time to move assets out of the country. .
Abramovich did not respond to requests for comment from Chelsea and their spokesman. A British government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Abramovich, 55, became one of Russia’s most powerful businessmen, especially in oil and aluminum, during the chaotic period after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Last month, Forbes pegged his wealth. net of more than 13,000 million dollars.
Britain and the EU imposed sanctions such as asset freezes on Abramovich and hundreds of other Russian individuals and entities for supporting Vladimir Putin. The businessman has denied having close ties with the president.
A Reuters analysis of corporate records in London and Amsterdam showed 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 largest search engine, Yandex, according to the filings.
On Feb. 24, Eugene Tenenbaum, a Chelsea manager who is described on the club’s website as one of Abramovich’s “closest associates,” took full control of Ervington, according to a London Stock Exchange filing. Neither Britain, the EU nor the United States have imposed sanctions on Tenenbaum.
Tenenbaum said in a statement to Reuters that his company bought Ervington Investments from a trust in which Abramovich and his children were previously the beneficiaries. The trust purchase, called Norma Investments, he said, complied with the laws and applied.
Tenenbaum would not say how much he paid for the stake.
“Ervington is a company that he worked with for many years,” he said. “I know the company’s investments and employees well, and the purchase of Ervington gives me the opportunity to continue to work with this business, under my control and for the benefit of myself and the employees”
London lawyers said the move meant assets held by Ervington would not be subject to the freeze placed on Abramovich’s other assets.
The billionaire has ceded control of two companies to business partners since the start of the war, according to corporate filings.
Also on the first day of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which Moscow is calling a special operation, Abramovich transferred Norma Investments to another partner, David Davidovich, UK corporate files show.
Britain imposed sanctions on Abramovich on March 10, claiming that he had benefited from dealings with the Russian government and special tax breaks.
Abramovich put reigning European champions Chelsea up for sale on March 2, but following the announcement of the sanctions, the club went on to operate under a special license and is now de facto controlled by the British government.
Several potential Chelsea buyers have confirmed their interest and the deadline for the first round of offers is Friday.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Paul Sandle. Editing in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)