London bans Abramovich: Russian oligarchs “friends of Putin” end up in Johnson’s crosshairs

Of Luigi Ippolito

Not just the patron of Chelsea: the moguls run business in the City, own historic buildings and finance prestigious private schools and universities such as Oxford

De facto banished from Great Britain: the oligarch Roman Abramovichfriend of Putin and patron of the Chelsea football team, will no longer be able to reside in London. His position is managed directly by the ‘Special Cases Unit’ of the British Interior Ministry, which has received instructions so that the Russian tycoon cannot legally based in the UK. The unit in question is part of the directorate for security and anti-terrorism, which manages national security matters.

Abramovich, who sits on a fortune of approx 10 billion, missing from London for months: the last time he was briefly passing through in October, thanks to his Israeli passport, which allows him sightseeing: but if he wanted to return to live in Great Britain, he would have to obtain a visa. Government sources, however, have made it known that “any attempt would be rejected”

Already in 2018, the oligarch had had to give up applying for one of the so-called “golden visas”, those guaranteed to large foreign investorsafter the nerve attack perpetrated in Salisbury by Kremlin agents against the former Russian spy Serghej Skripal. And now his chances of returning permanently to Chelsea are reduced to zero.

But of course Abramovich he’s not the only Russian tycoon in the crosshairs: now one wonders if Boris Johnson will finally find the courage to tighten the noose around Londongradthat tangle of money, business and interests that made the City an overseas branch in Moscow.

Just think that the second largest residence in Great Britainafter Buckingham Palace, is owned by a Russian oligarch, Andrey Guryev: this is Witanhurst, north of London, a mansion worth over 350 million euros. As well as Hamstone Housethe art deco house where Churchill planned the Normandy landings, was put on the market for over 20 million by his master, the Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska. The metal tycoon Alisher Usmanov instead he splits his time between Beechwood House, a € 60 million residence in north London, and Sutton Place, a Tudor castle in Surrey formerly owned by Paul Getty. In total it is estimated that the super-rich Russians own £ 1.5 billion in properties in Britain (about 1 billion and 800 million euros), 28 per cent of which are located in the Westminster area. And I’m fbetween 30 and 50 the oligarchs with direct links to the Kremlin who spend part of the year in Great Britain.

But there is much more, and much more obscure. Beyond two thousand companies registered in Great Britain they have been accused of corruption and money laundering linked to Russia, for the stratospheric total of 100 billion euros. And the characters involved are in many cases not just shady businessmen, but members of Putin’s inner circle who act on its behalf: all people who were welcomed with open arms by the City because it guaranteed a flow of capital, even if of dubious origin. Between 2008 and 2015, as many as 700 “golden visas” were granted to Russians.

These are capitals that feed every sector of British life. The University of Oxford, for example, he received a donation of nearly 100 million from oligarch Len Blavatnik (and in exchange he named his business school after him), while the more than 2,300 Russian students enrolled in English private schools (sons and daughters of the elite) pay fees for a total of 70 million. In London a whole economy of restaurantsclubs and luxury shops could not exist without the generous expenses of their Russian customers.

Rubles also oil the legal world and public relations: the oligarchs in the City can count on an army of lawyers and public relations consultants who look after their interests. And in fact Abramovich won a lawsuit against journalist Catherine Belton, who had accused him of having bought Chelsea on Putin’s orders.

The same conservative party the government is not free from suspicion: the Tories received tking and a half billion from Russian lenders, including two million from Lubov Chernukin, the wife of a former Putin minister, who won a £ 45,000 auction two years ago at the party party so she could play tennis with Boris Johnson. And the prime minister is on close relations with Evgeny Lebedevthe Russian tycoon owner of the Independent and Evening Standard (as well as the son of a KGB agent), who hosted the premier several times in his villa in Umbria and in exchange was appointed to the House of Lords.

But now the curtain could fall on this golden world, at least in part. Boris Johnson summoned City officials yesterday, including companies like Goldman Sachs, Lloyd’s and Barclays, to warn them that the next round of sanctions against Russian interests will have to “really bite.” And this afternoon he announced a new wave of anti-Russian sanctions in response to Moscow’s military action in Ukraine by banning all Russian banks from the City’s financial market. Aeroflot is also banned in the UK, while another 100 Russian individuals, entities and companies are sanctioned. Will the war in Ukraine lead to a showdown with Londongrad?

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