Breaking: Roman Abramovich ‘victimised because of Chelsea’ say his lawyers and here is why.
A claim suggests that Abramovich was vitimised because of Chelsea according to his lawyer in a court proceeding that just happened recently.
In a court bid on Wednesday to get his EU sanctions overturned, his legal team will also attempt to distance the oligarch from Vladimir Putin. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg will be told that Abramovich, said to be worth $14.5 billion in 2021, “had not received any benefits from Russian decision-makers”.
Wednesday’s court hearing coincides with a separate row involving the EU about how the frozen proceeds from the £2.5 billion sale of Chelsea should be spent. The UK is siding with the EU by refusing allow an independent foundation to spend the funds on victims of the Ukraine war under a plan supported by Abramovich, Oxfam and Save The Children.
Chelsea was only been put up for sale in March last year when the EU included the Russian oligarch on its list of individuals targeted with frozen assets and travel bans over their alleged role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich first filed a lawsuit, at the EU’s general court, against the European Union Council that May. When it sanctioned Abramovich in March, the EU said he “has had privileged access to the [Russian] president, and has maintained very good relations with him. This connection with the Russian leader helped him to maintain his considerable wealth.”
However legal sources said Abramovich’s lawyers – Thierry Bonntick, Carsten Zatschler and Stephane Bonfassi – will tell the panel of five judges in Luxembourg that while “Abramovich might be one of the most well-known Russians in Europe, this fame has little to do with his Russian origins, but rather with the fact that for 20 years he was the owner of Chelsea Football Club”.
“Becoming the owner of Chelsea FC made him a household name across Europe, and to some extent the world, at least where the Premier League is watched,” a statement adds.
As Abramovich “famously never engaged with press”, the lawyers will claim “a myth was created”.
“Fame however is a double-edged sword,” they will argue. “Ask yourselves, when the war started, did the most famous Russian individual stand a chance against the restrictive measures? Did the fact that he had lived, worked, and invested in the west for over 20 years and during that time been an upstanding citizen in each community grant him any due process prior to these measures being imposed?
“The answer is no, because as we will demonstrate today, he was not sanctioned because of evidence relating to the criteria, he was sanctioned simply because politically, the most famous Russian businessman had to be even if this is a manifest of error.”
Ahead of the hearing, a spokesperson for Abramovich said: “Mr. Abramovich is confident that the European Union Court of Justice will review the case fairly and objectively.”
A source said the legal team will argue the council’s decision to sanction the Russian was based on “vague articles from blogs and press and nothing substantive” and “based its decision to impose sanctions on historic events which have no contemporary relevance”.
The lawyers will also claim it is “absurd” that one alleged justification for the sanctions was that Abramovich was effectively mediating in the ongoing conflict after a request from Ukraine.
Abramovich’s team will claim he “had not received any benefits from Russian decisionmakers” and his lawyers will “refer the court to the European Council’s failure to present even one example suggesting the contrary”.
The case comes after Eugene Shvidler, a billionaire and associate of Abramovich, became the first person to challenge the UK’s Russian sanctions regime in a London court.
His legal team claim that the UK made “significant errors” in its assessment of Shvidler’s relationship with Abramovich.
The UK, which has sanctioned more individuals than either the EU or the US, has been exploring ways to broaden the power and scope of the existing sanctions tools to go as far as allowing the government to seize assets.
Abramovich’s legal team will also present a letter from Ukrainian MP David Arahamia, a leader of the Servant of the People faction, as part of their case.
“With the help of Mr Abramovich, delegations reached agreements on the organisation of humanitarian corridors, through which they were able to save more than 400,000 people,” the letter reportedly says.