British government scrutinising long-term visas held by Russians and others
Chelsea owner Abramovich awaits UK visa decision
The British government confirmed it was reviewing holders of long-term resident visas on Monday after it was revealed Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich's Tier One status had not been renewed.
The Russian steel and oil tycoon could not travel to watch his team triumph in the FA Cup final on Saturday, triggering reports about his whereabouts.
One associate of Mr Abramovich told The Guardian newspaper that the businessman's application had not been rejected but that there was no word on when the renewal would be processed. It is believed to have expired in April.
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed that under new powers adopted in 2015, the British government had launched a wide-ranging review of the Tier One visa, which allows the ultra-wealthy to access the UK in return for investment.
“We are currently taking another look at how the route operates and are undertaking further checks on investors who came to the UK through this route before the reforms were introduced,” the spokesman said.
Officials had said that a review was under way of long-term visas held by wealthy Russians in the aftermath of the March poisonings of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury. Britain blames Russia for use of a nerve agent to target the pair.
Moscow strongly denies the allegations but the poisonings sparked a Cold War-style diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West with the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from both sides.
A leading parliamentary committee issued a report on Russia on Monday that hit out at the close ties between Russian wealth with London's financial and social institutions.
Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that situation sent a chilling message to international investors.
"We are witnessing an unprecedented Russophobic mania in Britain which has various manifestations including this one," Mr Peskov said. "What's more, I have no doubt that investors from other countries will not leave such actions unnoticed because after such steps by Britain, investors from any country could face a situation when their investments will be labeled 'dirty money'."
The committee highlighted Russia's sale of US$4 billion (Dh14.7bn) of Eurobonds just two days after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in March. A day earlier, Russian natural gas giant Gazprom found strong demand in London for its sale of €750 million (Dh3,251m) of bonds.
"Business as usual," the Russian embassy in London tweeted after the Gazprom sale.
Last November, the Russian energy company EN+ raised £1bn (Dh5bn) on the London Stock Exchange. At the time, the company was controlled by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin. Mr Deripaska agreed to cut his stake in EN+ and resign from the company's board after he was placed under American sanctions in April.