NEWS
28/05/2018 19:30 BST | Updated 29/05/2018 09:05 BST

Roman Abramovich 'Becomes Israeli Citizen'

He's now the world's richest Israeli.

Roman Abramovich has become an Israeli citizen just days after it emerged his UK visa was not being renewed.

The Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea soccer club will move to Tel Aviv where he has bought a property, an Israeli media report said.

Abramovich has been counted as one of the richest men in Britain since he bought the English Premier League soccer club in 2003.

His British visa expired last month and sources have told Reuters it was taking longer than usual to get it renewed. The British government has declined to comment on his case.

In January Abramovich was placed on a “hostile” list of Russian oligarchs by the US.

The document was intended to name-and-shame those believed to be benefiting from Vladimir Putin’s tenure, as the US works to isolate his government diplomatically and economically.

Although London is one of Abramovich’s residences, he spends a lot of time in Moscow.

Tensions between Russia and the UK remain incredibly high after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal with a deadly nerve agent in Salisbury in March.

The British government blamed Russia for the attack but the Kremlin denies any involvement.

The Ynet website that belongs to Israel’s biggest selling daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, said Abramovich, who is Jewish, jetted into Tel Aviv on Monday and had received documents confirming his status as an Israeli citizen.

An Israeli immigration absorption ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on the report citing individual privacy but a spokeswoman for the Population Administration which oversees border control confirmed that Abramovich was in Israel.

A spokesman for Abramovich also declined to comment on the report.

Joe Skipper / Reuters
Abramovich's little boat.

Israel grants citizenship to any Jew wishing to move there, and a passport can be issued immediately. Israeli passport holders can enter Britain without a visa for short stays, although they require visas to work there.

Relations between Moscow and London have been strained since the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in March, an act Britain has blamed on Russia but in which the Kremlin denies any involvement.

Abramovich has been a regular visitor to Israel and Ynet said he had bought a property that was formerly a hotel, in an old Tel Aviv neighbourhood close to the Mediterranean shore.