JERSEY could find itself at the centre of international efforts to seize billions of pounds worth of assets connected to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich – should growing calls for him to face economic sanctions be successful.
Company and financial records seen by the JEP reveal that a St Helier-registered firm loaned £1.5 billion to one of the Chelsea FC owner’s companies.
The common thread of a network of companies linked to Mr Abramovich (pictured right), who as this newspaper revealed in 2018 was given housing qualifications to live in Jersey, appears to be a finance firm based behind a nondescript door in Colomberie.
Mr Abramovich owns Fordstam, a company registered at Stamford Bridge, also the location of the premiership side, that loans money to Chelsea FC. Fordstam has received funds from Camberley International Investments – a firm registered at 50 Colomberie.
One of Mr Abramovich’s close associates, Eugene Tenenbaum – a financier and director at Chelsea FC and Fordstam – is a Canadian national with Jersey residence. This newspaper understands that he was given his housing qualifications at around the same time as Mr Abramovich, for whom he works.
Mr Tenanbaum was until April 2020 a director at MHC (Services), a consultancy company whose office is located at Stamford Bridge. It recorded a turnover of £10.8m in 2020, with the lion’s share of this coming from Jersey (£8.53m, which was up from £8.27m in 2019). The second-largest turnover was in Russia (£1.54m), while it also made a turnover in the British Virgin Islands and the UK. Mr Tenenbaum is also a director at Evraz – a FTSE 100 steel and mining business headquartered in London with operations in Russia, with Mr Abramovich a major shareholder in the company, which had revenues of $14.1bn last year.
Mr Abramovich recently indicated he was seeking to sell Premier League club Chelsea, making the announcement in the wake of the Russian regime’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions being imposed against allies of President Vladimir Putin.
High-profile anti-Putin activist Bill Browder, whose campaigning led to the government adopting a version of the so-called Magnitsky Act designed to stop ‘dirty money’ flowing into Jersey, said that given the Island had aligned itself with the UK’s policy of economic sanctions, Jersey would be key if Mr Abramovich had financial interests locally.
‘If he [Mr Abramovich] were to be sanctioned, Jersey would play a central role,’ said Mr Browder.
Fordstam financial documents show an outstanding Camberley loan of £1.5bn, as of 30 June 2021, which had risen from £1.49bn the year before.
Jersey Financial Services Commission documents highlight that Camberley was registered at 50 La Colomberie in August 2020, by Zedra Trust Company. Zedra has offices in several global locations – including at 50 La Colomberie – and describes itself as a ‘thriving global business servicing wealthy families, entrepreneurs, companies, and funds’. The company declined to comment, when contacted by the JEP.
Mr Abramovich has said the ‘net proceeds’ of any Chelsea sale would benefit victims of the conflict, and denied any links to Mr Putin. There have been calls from some MPs in the UK parliament for the oligarch to be sanctioned, due to alleged links with President Putin – links which Mr Abramovich denies, echoing similar calls from jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Mr Abramovich was one of Mr Putin’s 35 ‘key enablers’, according to a list compiled by Mr Navalny’s group that was read out in the House of Commons recently by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran.
Meanwhile, Labour MP Chris Bryant told the UK parliament last month that, according to a leaked Home Office document from 2019 ‘Abramovich remains of interest to HMG [Her Majesties Government] due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices’.
In 2018, the JEP exclusively revealed that Mr Abramovich had been granted high-net-worth residency rights. At the time, the JEP was told that there had been interest in Jersey from other Russians. Three Russian nationals gained 21E ‘high-net-worth individual’ residency rights between 2013 and 2020.
The Chelsea owner never made the move to Jersey after withdrawing his UK visa application. He was instead granted Israeli citizenship.
Jersey Finance chief executive Joe Moynihan said they could not comment on individual cases, in response to queries regarding Camberley. Mr Moynihan added: ‘With regard to sanctions, we fully support the Government of Jersey in its actions towards sanctions in line with the UK and other international partners.’
‘All business carried out by all areas of the financial services sector is subject to Jersey’s robust implementation of international financial crime mitigation standards.’