Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich has not yet had his visa renewed after it expired last month, it has been reported.
The billionaire, who did not attend yesterday’s FA cup final which his team won 1-0, is said to have returned to his homeland and can’t now enter Britain.
Sources close to the oligarch said his request for a new visa had not been denied, but UK authorities were taking longer than usual to renew it without offering any explanation.
The delay emerged only weeks after the government said it was reviewing the status of more than 700 wealthy Russians who came into Britain on investor visas.
Home Office rules allow anyone who invests more than £2million to apply to move to Britain but the visas must be renewed every 40 months.
Ben Wallace, the security minister told The Times: ‘In 2014 and 2015 we took action to tighten up the Tier 1 investor route.
‘This is included introducing new powers to refuse applications where there are reasonable grounds to believe funds have been obtained unlawfully.
‘As a result of these reforms applications reduced by 84 per cent. As the prime minister and former home secretary made clear, we are taking another look at how the route operates and are undertaking further checks on investors who came to the UK through this route before the reforms were introduced.’
There is no suggestion that Mr Abramovich is involved in any wrongdoing and it is unclear which type of visa he has been using.
Russian news outlet The Bell reported today that all Russians on so-called investor visas to Britain are facing a delay on renewal decisions from three to six weeks.
Viktoria Grineva, a Russian lawyer working in the UK, said: ‘The time it now takes to make a decision on investors’ visas for Russia grew from three to six weeks.’
It comes amid mounting diplomatic tensions between Britain and Russia after former spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned in Salisbury in March.
Britain has accused Russia of being behind the poisoning, saying it was caused by a type of nerve agent known as novichok which was developed in the Soviet Union.
Mr Abramovich has a net worth of £9.3billion, and is the 13th richest man in the UK, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
Two people close to him have told the Financial Times that his investor visa has run out three weeks ago.
Abramovich’s last confirmed sighting in the UK was in March when Chelsea played Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.
According to The Times, documents at Companies House indicate that he could have been aware for months that his visa would not be renewed.
In March, Fordstam Ltd, the holding company that owns Chelsea, changed the country where Mr Abramovich is usually resident to Russia.
Mr Abramovich made his fortune in oil and aluminium following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
He has since embraced a glamorous lifestyle, with vast private yachts, art deals and his ownership of Chelsea, which he bought in 2003. His club beat Manchester United in the FA cup final at Wembley yesterday.
Although his £125million mansion in Kensington, west London is one of Abramovich’s residences, he spends a lot of time in Moscow.
The news Mr Abramovich had not yet had his visa renewed was first reported by independent Russian website The Bell.
Flight records showed that the businessman’s personal Boeing 767 airplane was last in London on April 1, the publication added.
He also did not testify last week in a London court dispute between two other Russian oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Potanin.
Abramovich appeared on a US list of senior politicians and oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin in January.
The list was published by the Trump administration in January and is part of a sanctions law designed to punish Russia for interfering in the US election.
It included 114 senior figures in President Putin’s government and 96 oligarchs.
But President Putin blasted the US for releasing the list, calling it a ‘hostile step’ that will further damage US-Russian ties.
A spokesman for Mr Abramovich has declined to comment. John Mann, based in Moscow, said it was a private matter.
The Home Office also declined to comment.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said: ‘We do not routinely comment on individual cases.’