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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Britain has not renewed Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's visa

Russian state media reports he no longer has the right to stay in the country

Roman Abramovich, left, arrives with his lawyers for a hearing at the District Court of Sarine in Fribourg, Switzerland on May 18, 2018. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has brought civil proceedings against the Chelsea FC boss, Eugene Shvidler and Gazprom, to recover an alleged 46 million Swiss francs in debts. Keystone via AP
Roman Abramovich, left, arrives with his lawyers for a hearing at the District Court of Sarine in Fribourg, Switzerland on May 18, 2018. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has brought civil proceedings against the Chelsea FC boss, Eugene Shvidler and Gazprom, to recover an alleged 46 million Swiss francs in debts. Keystone via AP

Russian state media on Sunday cited an unconfirmed report that Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich's British visa has run out, while his spokesman declined to comment.

Russian state news agency Tass and other media picked up a report on The Bell website, which said an acquaintance of Abramovich and two in his inner circle had told it the billionaire's British visa ran out three weeks ago and he is awaiting a new one.

Amid a spiralling diplomatic crisis between Britain and Russia over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent, there have been calls in Britain for sanctions that would hurt super-rich Russians who have homes in London.

Mr Abramovich formally has residency in Jersey in the Channel Islands, a tax haven, but has never taken it up. The Sunday Times put his wealth at £9.3 billion (Dh46bn) on its Rich List this year. He has owned Chelsea since 2003. It ranked him as Britain's 13th-richest man.

The owner of the Premiership football club has a residence opposite Kensington Palace thought to be worth more than £100 million.

Mr Abramovich's spokesman John Mann told AFP he could not comment because "it's a personal issue". Mr Mann gave the same response to Tass.

The Bell published the Russian-language report on Sunday. It said it had received "no comment" responses from Mr Abramovich's spokesman and Britain's Home Office.

AFP also requested a comment on the issue from the Home Office in London, but none was immediately forthcoming.

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The report quoted a source in Mr Abramovich's entourage as saying that Britain had not refused to issue a new visa to Mr Abramovich but was considering his application.

Russia's Sport-Express website cited sources in Mr Abramovich's entourage as saying that it had taken a long time for his application to be processed but he was due to get a new British visa shortly.

The Bell was started by the former editor-in-chief of the RBC media group, Elizaveta Osetinskaya. Under her leadership, RBC was known for high-profile investigations.

The billionaire was the subject of a court battle with fellow Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, which he won in 2012. It was centered on the ownership of the oil group Sibneft. The trial left Mr Berezovsky with a £100m legal bill after the losing the £1.8bn damages case.

He is a longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a former member of Russia's parliament, described by those close to him as a shy businessman who has held stakes in Russian airline Aeroflot and Siberian sausage plant Omsky Bacon. But Chelsea remains his prized asset.

Many Russian tycoons have sought to invest in the London market, using such purchases as insurance against any change in the decision-making of Mr Putin.

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