Billionaire Roman Abramovich of Russia who is also the owner of Chelsea football club became Israel’s wealthiest citizen on Monday.
Abramovich is a permanent Israeli resident, a Jew entitled to Israeli citizenship by law. He had been living in London for years but was informed that his UK visa would not be renewed. JNS.org reports
The UK has tried to push out all Russian oligarchs in recent months following the poisonings of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in March with a nerve gas. Abramovich also reportedly holds close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Over 30 powerful Russian Jewish business people have opted to get Israeli citizenship in recent years. Not only is Israel the Jewish homeland, it provides a safe backup residence, as well as rights afforded to Israeli-passport holders, including tax benefits, some protection against extradition and the convenience of visa-free travel across the European Union.
Abramovich’s reps. said his strong identification as a Jew and his warm feelings towards Israel motivated him to make aliyah. His former wife Dasha Zhukova is Jewish, and is the mother of two of his seven children. Abramovich is also the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, a trustee of the Moscow Jewish Museum and a backer of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Russia.
Abramovich has invested in more than a dozen Israel startups and venture funds since 2015, acquiring equity through two of his investment firms – Ervington Investments and Millhouse Capital.
Earlier this week, Tel Aviv University said Abramovich donated $30m to build a new Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. In March, he also donated $20 million to go to a new nuclear medical facility at Israel’s largest hospital Sheba Medical Center.
Abramovich is the 10th wealthiest person in Russia, worth an estimated $10.8bn. But he didn’t start out that way. Born in Lithuania, he was orphaned by age four and raised by his grandparents in the Russian Arctic Circle.