A British MP has called on Boris Johnson's government to seize the assets of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, given he was identified by the Home Office in 2019 as having links to the Russian state and having "corrupt activity and practices".
Abramovich is the owner of London football club Chelsea, and his finances played a big role in growing the club into a European powerhouse during the 2000s.
On Thursday (Friday NZT), Labour MP Chris Bryant told MPs a Home Office document leaked to him said Abramovich was linked to "illicit finance and malign activity" and that Her Majesty's government was focused on ensuring such individuals were unable to base themselves in the UK.
"Surely Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country? Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets, including his £150m (NZ$300m) home, and making sure that other people who have had tier 1 visas like this are not engaged in malign activity in the UK?” Bryant said.
Abramovich, who made his fortune acquiring Russian oil assets following the end of the Soviet Union, bought Chelsea in 2003 and has invested enormous sums into the club.
In 2018 he withdrew his application for a new UK investor visa, amid worsening links between the UK and Russia. Abramovich has an Israeli passport and has since travelled to the UK using that.
Earlier this week, British prime minister Boris Johnson wrongly stated in the House of Commons that Abramovich facing sanctions from the government.
British foreign secretary Liz Truss said Johnson had misspoken but wouldn't be drawn on whether Abramovich was due to face sanctions.
"I'm not going to go into details of who is on our list for future sanctions, but viewers can be assured that we have more individuals that we will target in the event of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine," she told Sky News.