Roman Abramovich: Chelsea owner sanctioned and assets frozen

Toby Cudworth
Abramovich's assets, including Chelsea, have been frozen by the UK Government
Abramovich's assets, including Chelsea, have been frozen by the UK Government / Paul Gilham/GettyImages

Roman Abramovich has had all of his assets frozen by the UK government after being sanctioned for his close ties to Russia president Vladimir Putin - but a sale of Chelsea could still go through in the future if certain conditions are met.

Abramovich is one of seven more Russian oligarchs who have had sanctions placed on them, and they will come into force before he's able to push through a sale of Chelsea - who he put up for sale last week after nearly 20 years of ownership.

At least 20 interested parties have shown an interest in buying Chelsea, who are at valued by Abramovich at around £3bn, and the 55-year-old has previously said any proceeds from the sale would be donated to "all victims of the war in Ukraine."

But a statement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday morning - delivered off the back of a lengthy dossier that detailed Abramovich's close links with Putin and called him a "pro-Kremlin oligarch" - said action must be immediately taken against those who have supported the invasion of Ukraine, putting the brakes on a sale going through.

"There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine," Johnson said.

"Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies."

The UK's foreign secretary, Liz Truss, added: “Today’s sanctions show once again that oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society. With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression.

What did the government sanctions listing say about Abramovich?

“Abramovich is a prominent Russian businessman and pro-Kremlin oligarch. Abramovich is associated with a person who has been involved in destabilising Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades.

"This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the Government of Russia. This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to Abramovich, buying and selling shares from and to the state at favourable rates, and the contracts received in the run up to the FIFA2018 World Cup. Therefore, Abramovich has received preferential treatment and concessions from Putin and the Government of Russia.

"Abramovich is also associated with a person who is or has been involved in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia, namely:former First Deputy Prime Minister, and current Chairman of the Management Board for VEB, Igor Shuvalov; former GeneralDirector of Gazprom Investment Holdings, Alisher Usmanov, both of whom were sanctioned on 3 March 2022 for being involved persons in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Russian government through carrying on business in a sector of strategic significance to the Russian government."

“The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame. Our support for Ukraine will not waver. We will not stop in this mission to ramp up the pressure on the Putin regime and choke off funds to his brutal war machine.”

Though the licence to freeze Abramovich's assets prevents a sale from going through now, Telegraph Sport report that special dispensation may be granted if the Government decides a change of ownership is in the best interests of Chelsea and, more importantly, doesn't benefit him in any way.

Currently, Chelsea have been issued with a special license that will allow them to fulfil the remainder of their Premier League fixtures, but a number of restrictions have been placed on the club in addition to the blocking of any sale.

The Blues will be unable to sell any tickets for upcoming matches - only season ticket holders and those who have already purchased are able to attend - and they are barred from any transfer activity, be it incomings, outgoings or contract renewals. They are also unable to sell any merchandise.

Players and staff will continue to be paid as normal, with outstanding transfer fees able to also go through, and the club can also receive payments, though they will then be immediately frozen.

Chelsea can also spend a maximum of £500,000 on staging games, with a limit of spending £20,000 on any away game travel - and that may hamper their ability to take on Lille in the Champions League last 16.