Russian billionaire and close confidant of President Putin, Roman Abramovich, has been granted an Israeli citizenship. The owner of the Chelsea football club reportedly took this step after the UK government delayed in renewing his visa.
Ties between UK and Russia have worsened in the recent months.
Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich is a Russian-Israeli billionaire businessman, investor, and politician, residing in Tel Aviv. According to Forbes, Abramovich's net worth was US$11.5 billion in 2018. Abramovich is the primary owner of the private investment company Millhouse LLC and is best known outside Russia as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, a Premier League football club. He also shares a close relationship to those in power in Kremlin. By 1996, at the age of 30, Abramovich had become close to President Boris Yeltsin, and had moved into an apartment inside the Kremlin at the invitation of the Yeltsin family. He is considered to be a close confidant of Russia President Vladimir Putin. In 2007, Putin consulted in meetings with Abramovich on the question of who should be his successor as president; Medvedev was personally recommended by Abramovich.
UK crackdown on oligarchs
The Russian oligarchs are business entrepreneurs who emerged under Mikhail Gorbachev (General Secretary 1985–1991) during his period of market liberalization. The genesis of the word ‘oligarch’ can be traced back to Greek origins. It roughly means – ‘rule of the few’. The rise of the oligarchy system in Russia has its roots at the end of the Soviet era. When the Soviet Union split up, during Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika, many Russian businessmen became extremely wealthy by either importing or smuggling goods such as personal computers and jeans into the country and sold them, often on the black market, for a hefty profit.
Many oligarchs currently have property across the world and reside in other nations including the United Kingdom. The number of billionaires living in the UK has risen to more than 100 for the first time, according to the 2014 Sunday Times Rich List. There are now 104 billionaires based in the UK with a combined wealth of more than £301 billion. London is home to some of the world's super-rich, and reportedly corrupt individuals from overseas who buy assets to hide their illicit wealth. Some experts have noted that nearly 90 billion dollars of illegal money was laundered in the UK in 2017 alone.
In a bid to tackle corruption in the UK, the government has notified that Russian oligarchs suspected of corruption will be forced to explain how they acquired their lavish lifestyles in the region. This is due to the newly passed law called the Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) which came into force on January 21st, 2018.
As a result of this, it has become increasingly difficult for Abramovich to renew his UK visa. In addition, ties between UK and Russia have deteriorated in the recent months. UK has accused Russia of trying to interfere with elections. In addition, UK has also alleged that Kremlin was involved in the attempted murder of a Russian spy. In March 2017, Sergei Viktorovich Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer turned spy for Britain′s intelligence services, was attacked. He and his daughter were found unconscious after falling victims to a poison attack. It was later revealed that they were attacked by a nerve agent.
It has been reported that Abramovich would have to explain the source of his wealth to receive a new British visa. Now, it has been revealed that he has been granted Israeli citizenship and has already flown to Israel. During his visit to Tel Aviv, he also obtained documents confirming his status as an Israeli citizen, according to Israeli media. Having been granted a citizenship in the nation, he now becomes the richest man in Israel. He is Jewish. An official part of the Israeli government has been quoted as stating, “His documents were examined under the 'law of return' and he was indeed entitled to immigrant status in Israel, and as a result he was issued an immigration visa.”
Our assessment is that this indicates the deterioration ties between UK and Russia. The UK said, this month, it would review long-term visas of wealthy Russians after the poisoning. The nation is sceptical of anyone with ties to Kremlin staying within its borders. Israel, on the other hand, could possibly benefit from the taxes that will now be paid by the richest man in the nation.