US & World

Roman Abramovich 'eligible to become Israeli citizen'

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Mr Abramovich will be the richest person in Israel

The Russian-Jewish billionaire owner of Chelsea football club, Roman Abramovich, has been found eligible for Israeli citizenship after facing delays in renewing his UK visa.

Immigration officials told the BBC that he was interviewed last week at the Israeli embassy in Moscow.

He has flown to Tel Aviv but a spokesman would not comment on media reports citizenship had been granted.

Mr Abramovich, 51, would be the richest person in Israel.

His UK investor visa reportedly expired some weeks ago but the British government has refused to comment on his individual case.

The delay in issuing him a new one comes amid increased diplomatic tensions between London and Moscow after the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in southern England.

Mr Abramovich did not attend the FA cup final at Wembley earlier this month when Chelsea beat Manchester United.

Israeli media reports say he has been given an identity card in Israel under the Law of Return, which allows Jews to become citizens of Israel.

The Times of Israel said the interior ministry had confirmed Mr Abramovich arrived in Israel on Monday and that he had immigrated to the country.

He is a frequent visitor to Israel and bought a hotel in Tel Aviv in 2015 that reports say he has turned into a residence.

Israel passport holders are allowed to enter Britain without a visa for short stays.

Mr Abramovich is worth $11.5bn (£8.6bn), according to Forbes magazine.

Who is Roman Abramovich?

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Mr Abramovich (right) has often been spotted at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground

  • One of Russia’s richest people, he bought Chelsea FC in 2003
  • He reportedly sold dolls before making his fortune in oil during the perestroika years in the 1990s
  • Mr Abramovich was a one-time business partner of the late tycoon Boris Berezovky, an associate of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin
  • Critics say the two businessmen used their Kremlin “family” ties to acquire key state companies for below market value
  • Abramovich served as governor of Russia’s Chukotka region
  • He is believed to be close to current Russian President Vladimir Putin

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