The Russian invasion of Ukraine has finally woken up the UK government to the Putin proxy Roman Abramovich and his indefensible ownership of Chelsea Football Club (and much besides), given he is plainly a billionaire henchman of a corrupted and authoritarian government.
British football rules preclude foreign governments and their agents from controlling clubs, and likewise criminals.
However, this has hardly been the only glaring case of blatant negligence in enforcing the rules. There was an even more outrageous sidelining of the regulations last year, when Boris Johnson interfered by overturning a decision by the Premier League that had rightly vetoed a Saudi state controlled entity from buying Newcastle United. Now the club ‘sport-washes’ MBS (who ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi) and his iron fisted government of Saudi Arabia.
There is an equal question mark over the controlling ownership of Manchester City Club by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, given that the evidence of his own abuse of office and criminality is every bit as strong as the evidence against Abramovich. So, as Middle East watchers have been pointing out, ought not Man City be confiscated just like Chelsea?
This would clearly be in line with the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regulations brought into being by the UK government on 26 April 2021 at which time, in a written statement to Parliament, the Foreign Secretary stated that the act would “ensure that the UK is not a safe haven for those involved in serious corruption, including those who profit from it.” As the law states:
“The purposes of the regulations contained in this instrument are to prevent and combat serious corruption…. “corruption” means bribery; or misappropriation of property. .. “bribery” occurs where a person directly or indirectly offers, promises or gives a financial or other advantage to a foreign public official, and where the person intends to induce that official or another foreign public official to perform improperly a public function…
Following the huge amount of evidence that has now emerged over Sheikh Mansour’s involvement in the receipt of at least half a billion dollars worth of bribes from 1MDB in order to facilitate the thefts from that Malaysian fund (first by granting bogus guarantees from the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund IPIC that he was in charge of and then by laundering of the stolen money through the IPIC owned Falcon Bank) ought he not be placed in just this category of criminals to be sanctioned?
Indeed, the latest to emerge in court last week was that the Goldman Sachs banker who conspired with Najib and Jho Low to perform the 1MDB heist was told from the outset that not only would Mansour have to be bribed together with Najib but that he “would not get out of bed for less than a hundred million dollars”.
The FBI has likewise documented in its court filings over 1MDB that $160 million of the half billion of backhanders into the Edmund de Rothschild Luxemburg bank account went straight into servicing payments for Mansour’s latest toy of the time, the super yacht Topaz. Controlling the account was Mansour’s right hand man Khadem Al Qubaisi who was turfed into jail shortly after Sarawak Report first exposed the account in 2015.
The Abu Dhabi royal may not yet have been convicted for his acceptance of these gross bribes but neither has Abramovich, as is being pointed out by those who think the UK authorities are being embarrassingly selective as to whom they act against when it comes to corrupt foreign interests in the UK.
They can hardly pretend not to know about this notorious case or indeed the embarrassing cover-up involving Mansour’s older brother, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince MBZ, who agreed in a call with Najib Razak to help to hide the evidence to protect both their families. The recording of that call was released by Malaysia’s anti-corruption authorities for all to hear.
The 2021 Act is clear about how assets of such perpetrators of corruption can be frozen. Its explanatory provisions say “Financial sanctions consist of an asset-freeze, ensuring a designated person’s funds and economic resources (non-monetary assets, such as property or vehicles) are not dealt with, and ensuring that funds and economic resources are not made available to or for the benefit of a designated person, either directly or indirectly”.
Looking at the ownership of Man City it is clear that Sheikh Mansour holds the majority controlling interest. CFG is owned by Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) (78%) the China Media Capital (CMC) Consortium (13%), and Silver Lake (10%). ADUG is a private investment and development company belonging to Sheikh Mansour.
And whilst such matters are being considered what about the other assets owned by ADUG across Manchester in terms of property and higher education that have been estimated to be worth a billion pounds?
It is hugely regrettable that it has taken a bloody war to get the ball rolling with the often repeated but so far barely enacted promises by western governments to deal with the corruption that has spread globally through their systems. However, now the principle and action has been set it ought not stop with Abramovich and Chelsea.