Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club who has found himself without a visa to Britain, took Israeli citizenship yesterday and will move to Tel Aviv where he has bought a property, an Israeli media report said.
Abramovich has been counted as one of the richest men in Britain since he bought the English Premier League soccer club in 2003. His British visa expired last month and sources have told Reuters it was taking longer than usual to get it renewed. The British government has declined to comment on his case.
The Ynet website that belongs to Israel’s biggest selling daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, said Abramovich, who is Jewish, jetted into Tel Aviv yesterday and received documents confirming his status as an Israeli citizen.
An Israeli immigration absorption ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on the report citing individual privacy but a spokeswoman for the Population Administration which oversees border control confirmed that Abramovich was in Israel.
A spokesman for Abramovich also declined to comment on the report.
Israel grants citizenship to any Jew wishing to move there, and a passport can be issued immediately. Israeli passport holders can enter Britain without a visa for short stays, although they require visas to work there.
Palestinians who can trace their ancestry to towns and villages in Israel are however not given nationality with millions living in refugee camps in the Middle East unable to enter their family’s land.
Relations between Moscow and London have been strained since the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in March, an act Britain has blamed on Russia but in which the Kremlin denies any involvement.
Abramovich has been a regular visitor to Israel and Ynet said he had bought a property that was formerly a hotel in an old Tel Aviv neighbourhood close to the Mediterranean shore.