The UK government has imposed sanctions on Chelsea football club director Eugene Tenenbaum in an attempt to freeze up to £10bn of assets linked to the club’s Russian oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich.
The UK said it was extending sanctions to Tenenbaum and David Davidovich, another close associate of Abramovich, because the oligarch had transferred billions of pounds of assets to the pair as Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Foreign Office said the sanctions would “freeze assets connected with the pair estimated to total up to £10bn – the largest asset freeze action in UK history”. The department said the asset freezes would “prevent these assets from being repatriated to Russia and used to fund Putin’s war machine”.
“We are tightening the ratchet on Putin’s war machine and targeting the circle of people closest to the Kremlin,” Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said. “We will keep going with sanctions until Putin fails in Ukraine. Nothing and no one is off the table.”
The UK said the sanctions were coordinated with Jersey, which yesterday froze £5.4bn of Abramovich’s assets.
Abramovich was subjected to UK sanctions on 10 March after ministers accused him of having “clear connections” to Putin’s regime and being among a group of rich Russian business people who had “blood on their hands”. He has denied having close links to Putin.
However, the UK has not seized any of Abramovich’s UK properties, which include a £120m mansion on Kensington Palace Gardens just behind the royal palace. His family have amassed a UK property collection worth more than £250m, numbering about 70 homes, buildings and pieces of land. The UK is forcing him to sell Chelsea FC, which he bought in 2003 for about £140m.
Corporate filings show that Tenenbaum took control of Evrington Investments Ltd, an Abramovich-linked investment company, on 24 February, immediately after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich was previously listed as the “beneficial owner” of Cyprus-based Ervington, according to filings in London and Amsterdam. The company has made investments in at least eight firms, including in Russia’s top search engine, Yandex.
Also on the first day of the invasion, Abramovich transferred control of another investment vehicle, Norma Investments, to Davidovich. The Foreign Office said Davidovich, who has been described by Forbes magazine as “Abramovich’s much lower-profile right-hand man”, “took over Evrington Investments from Tenenbaum in March 2022”.
The men will be subject to asset freezes as well as transport sanctions, meaning that any ship or aircraft owned, chartered, controlled or operated by them could be detained if it enters Britain.
Tenenbaum, 57, was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union and has been on Chelsea’s board for 19 years. He was previously the head of corporate finance at Sibneft, an oil company sold in 2006 by Abramovich.