Abramovich case: Checks on super-rich are ‘rigorous’, insist States

‘RIGOROUS’ background checks are carried out on all super-rich immigrants before they are granted the right to live in Jersey, the States have said following allegations that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was refused Swiss residency because the country’s police force said he posed a ‘threat to public security’.

Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich
Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich

The checks carried out in Jersey include a risk assessment on anyone considered to be a ‘politically exposed’ or ‘high-profile’ person, independent due diligence and consultation with the Jersey Financial Services Commission and the States of Jersey Police.

It is not clear whether the Jersey checks flagged up the same concerns raised by the Swiss police, who alleged that Mr Abramovich was suspected of being involved in money laundering and having links to criminal organisations.

Meanwhile, the Chelsea FC owner’s lawyer has said that the ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations about his client’s involvement in money laundering and contacts with criminal organisations highlighted by the Swiss police had never been ‘an issue’ during background checks carried out by other governments over the years.

Earlier this year, the JEP exclusively revealed that Mr Abramovich, who is Russia’s 11th richest man, was granted residency rights in the Island under the 21E scheme for ‘High Value Residents’. It remains unknown whether he has taken up residence in the Island or is even able to, given recent issues with renewing his UK visa.

Last year, Mr Abramovich (51) withdrew an application for a residency permit in Switzerland. According to media reports he had wanted to live near the exclusive Verbier ski resort in Canton Valais but his application was blocked on the recommendation of the Swiss federal police.

Following a seven-month legal battle, Swiss media organisation Tamedia has now published details of the letter sent by the Swiss police to the immigration authorities expressing concerns about Mr Abramovich’s application for residency.

They added that they believed he posed a ‘threat to public security and a reputational risk’ to Switzerland, if he became a resident.

A spokeswoman for the States said they could not comment on individual cases but moved to reassure people that the process for being granted high-value residency in Jersey was ‘rigorous’.

‘We have rigorous processes in place for vetting every application to relocate to Jersey under our high-value residency regime. We don’t comment on any individuals who may have applied for high-value residency.’

She refused to comment when asked if Mr Abramovich’s residency status could be rescinded in the light of the worsening relationship between the UK and Russia which has played out since his application was first considered. An approval is usually valid for six to 12 months, after which time the client may be asked to provide updated information, she said.

When asked if 21E applications from other Russians had been turned down since Mr Abramovich’s was processed, the spokeswoman again said she was unable to comment.

Meanwhile, Mr Abramovich’s Swiss lawyer, Daniel Glasl, has released a statement explaining that they have filed for a correction of facts by the federal police and will be filing a criminal complaint over the matter.

‘Any suggestion that Mr Abramovich has been involved in money laundering or has contacts with criminal organisations is entirely false,’ the statement says.

‘Mr Abramovich has never been charged with participating in money laundering and does not have a criminal record. He has never had, or been alleged to have, connections with criminal organisations.’

He added: ‘Contacts between Mr Abramovich’s legal team and Swiss authorities over the past months have been focused on determining the sources of these defamatory allegations in his file and correcting the information therein. Mr Abramovich has submitted to numerous, thorough background checks by governments and business partners over the years and such unsubstantiated allegations have never been at issue.’

How applications for 21E residency are dealt with

lFirst enquiry from a client to Locate Jersey.

lAn information pack is sent out and the client is asked to complete a profile template and provide a copy of their passport.

lThe States carries out a check with risk intelligence company World-Check and carries out desk-top research.

lIf the client is considered a ‘politically exposed’ or a ‘high profile’ person likely to attract a lot of media attention, a risk assessment is carried out. This will take two forms. The first is an officer-led completion of an internal risk assessment. The results are shared with the Chief Minister’s Department and a decision made whether to proceed or not. If the decision is made to proceed an enhanced due diligence report will be requested for an independent source, the result of which will be submitted to the Chief Minister for political consideration.

lIn parallel, every enquiry is sent to the Jersey Financial Services Commission and the States of Jersey Police for their comments and if the client fails any of these tests the process would stop there.

lIn the past five years around 90 per cent of applicants have engaged professional advisers, such as KPMG, PwC, EY, Smith & Williamson, Grant Thornton, BDO and Rawlinson & Hunter, to make the submission for residency. The companies all have their own process for assessing new clients.

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