Abramovich's Immigration Woes Reach Swiss Supreme Court

(Bloomberg) -- Britain isn’t the only place where Roman Abramovich is having residency issues.

While the Russian billionaire grapples with delays to his U.K. visa, a Swiss newspaper’s appeal to report on why Abramovich’s bid for residency in the ski resort of Verbier was scuppered last year has reached the country’s Supreme Court.

A spokesman for the Lausanne-based court wouldn’t say on Tuesday when the case will be heard, but said a public judgment will be issued as soon as a final decision has been reached. Cases like this are typically discussed by judges in private, unless there is a dissenting opinion that prompts a public hearing.

John Mann, a spokesman for Abramovich, and a lawyer for Tamedia in Zurich, both declined to comment on the case.

Visa delays

A loss at Switzerland’s top court on the reporting issue might add to current immigration headaches Abramovich faces as he bids to return to London from Russia. Renewal of his U.K. residency visa is taking longer than usual, according to people familiar with the situation, which meant he missed seeing Chelsea, the soccer team he bought in 2003, win the FA Cup Final in London last week.

Abramovich sought to secure Swiss residency in the weeks after Britain voted in June 2016 to quit the European Union, Tamedia-owned SonntagsZeitung reported in February. The application was initially well received by the migration authorities in the Swiss canton of Valais, where Verbier is located, because of the contribution he would bring to local tax revenues, the paper reported, citing regional officials.

In mid-2017, the Russian withdrew his application, a spokeswoman for the Zurich Commercial Court involved in the case said. The paper couldn’t report details of why his application ran into opposition, however, because of a publication ban handed down by the same Zurich court. Abramovich then sought a retraction of some details of what had already been published about the residency application. That was dismissed by the Zurich court.

A request for a copy of the court’s decision was rejected because Bloomberg isn’t a party to the case, according to a spokeswoman for the Zurich court. The ban on reporting the reasons for the application’s denial remains in place. The court spokeswoman said that the both decisions are “merely provisional” pending a final decision on the matter.

Filing Error

Abramovich, estimated to be worth about $14 billion dollars, has sunk nearly $1 billion into new signings for Chelsea over the past 15 years that has put the club among Europe’s elite and made the Russian popular among West London soccer fans.

Under the terms of Britain’s Tier 1 investor visa scheme introduced a decade ago, wealthy individuals willing to invest two million pounds ($2.7 million) in government debt or shares become eligible for temporary residency in the U.K, with that status becoming permanent coming five years later. If you have 10 million pounds to commit, the wait drops to two years.

Despite owning multiple homes in London, Abramovich earlier this year listed his residence as being Switzerland, documents filed at the U.K.’s Companies House showed. Abramovich’s spokesman said that was a filing mistake. The documents now list his residence as Russia.

That visa scheme is coming under heavy scrutiny amid tensions between Britain and Russia over the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil. The U.K. government is reviewing the visas of 700 wealthy Russians who entered the country on investor entry papers.

A report by Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee entitled ‘Moscow’s Gold: Russian Corruption in the U.K.” published Monday concluded that “the use of London as a base for the corrupt assets of Kremlin-connected individuals is now clearly linked to a wider Russian strategy and has implications for our national security.”

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