Funds from Chelsea's sale 'have yet to reach Ukrainians'

UK government says it cannot comment on specific cases

Chelsea FC was sold after Roman Abramovich was sanctioned as part of British efforts to target Russian oligarchs. AP
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Money from the sale of Chelsea Football Club that was earmarked to help Ukrainians has still not reached them, a British MP said on Tuesday.

About £2.5 billion ($2.8bn) was reserved to help Ukrainian victims of the war, but Chris Bryant told the House of Commons that the money is still in former owner Roman Abramovich’s bank account.

A government minister said he could not comment on specific cases.

Speaking at a session of questions to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the Commons, Mr Bryant asked why the money was “taking so long” to get to the people of Ukraine.

“One of the people who is sanctioned in the UK is Roman Abramovich. Chelsea was sold on May 30, but the billions of pounds are sitting in his bank account because the Foreign Office still hasn’t set up the fund so that the money can be given to the people of Ukraine,” Mr Bryant said.

“Why is the Foreign Office taking so long? When is it going to be sorted?”

Foreign Office minister Rehman Chishti answered: “Whilst I cannot comment on specific cases, what I would say is that 1,100 individuals, including 123 oligarchs and their family members with a global net worth of £130 billion, over 120 entities including all subsidiaries owned by these entities, and 19 Russian banks with global assets of around £940 billion, or over 80 per cent of the Russian banking sector, in conjunction with partners, over 60 per cent of Russia’s central bank foreign reserves, have been frozen.

“That demonstrates our commitment that we will do everything we possibly can, applying our criteria set by this Parliament, to bring those to account.”

“Nonsense,” Mr Bryant shouted across the chamber in reply.

Chelsea was sold after Russian tycoon Abramovich was sanctioned as part of British efforts to target Russian oligarchs, and to put pressure on and isolate president Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.

In March, Mr Abramovich was in Turkey attending the first peace talks between Ukraine and Russia.

American Todd Boehly bought the London club in May for £4.25bn, with an expected £2.5bn in proceeds from the sale frozen in a UK bank account to allow those funds to be diverted to a new charitable foundation to aid victims of the war in Ukraine.

Mr Boehly, a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was part of a consortium that includes Mark Walter — another Dodgers’ part owner — and Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss. There was also funding from private equity firm Clearlake Capital.

The club finished last season third in the table, behind champions Manchester City and Liverpool.

Updated: September 06, 2022, 5:00 PM