Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Gibraltar link as European Bank moves to sue Chelsea Boss

Abramovich under scrutiny

- claims BBC documentary
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and his “labyrinthine business dealings” are featured in a “Sweeney Investigates” BBC2 documentary, to be broadcast on Thursday.

The programme claims that “the billionaire blew huge sums on two yachts and even £12,000 on beauty treatments for his wife, Irena,” according to allegations in a dossier compiled by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), whose brief is to finance the fledgling economies of Eastern Europe.

The publicly-funded bank, backed by British, American, Japanese and European taxpayers, is set to sue the Chelsea boss in a Swiss court for payment of a £9m debt it believes one of his companies owes the bank.

A Gibraltar registered company Runicom Ltd allegedly controlled by the Russian tycoon, is linked to the case.

The Sweeney Investigates programme alleges that EBRD granted a loan in 1997 to a Russian Bank, SBS Agro, and demanded as collateral first call over a loan the institution had made to a Swiss-based company called Runicom SA. According to the BBC documentary: “When SBS Agro collapsed in the Russian banking crisis in the late nineties, EBRD set out to recover the collateral from Runicom SA - but there was a problem. The money in Runicom SA had gone walkabout. The bank sent letters
in 2003 to Mr Abramovich, his associate and fellow Chelsea regular Eugene Shvidler and Sibneft, Mr Abramovich’s oil company, demanding repayment of a multi-million pound loan.

A source at the (EBRD) based in London quoted by the BBC said:

We have as much money as he does, and we’ll see this through. He may think he can get away with this in Russia, but he can’t in Switzerland.

The honeymoon between the British media and Mr Abramovich - who has spent £350m on getting Chelsea Football Club to the top of the Premier League - may be about to end as details of the planned court case emerge.

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