Roman Abramovich documentary: why is Chelsea owner focus of Panorama special Dirty Money and when is it on BBC

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The Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea FC is the subject of a new documentary

Roman Abramovich is a billionaire oligarch, politician, and owner of Chelsea football club.

This week he will also become the subject of the enticingly named BBC Panorama documentary Roman Abramovich’s Dirty Money.

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There are few people in the UK who will not have heard or read the name Roman Abramovich over the last few weeks.

But for those of you who have tuned out of the news cycle because of its seemingly endless string of crushingly depressing headlines, here is all you need to know about Abramovich and his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Chelsea is unable to make revenue from ticket and merchandise sales under the sanctionsChelsea is unable to make revenue from ticket and merchandise sales under the sanctions
Chelsea is unable to make revenue from ticket and merchandise sales under the sanctions | AFP via Getty Images

Why is Roman Abramovich the subject of a new documentary?

Abramovich is worth an estimated 12 billion USD, having made his money following the collapse of the Soviet Union, where he was able to buy state-owned assets on the (relatively) cheap.

Abramovich had close ties with Boris Yeltsin, president of Russia from 1991-1999, and is recognised as a close confidante of Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin.

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From 2000-2008, Abramovich was the governor of Chukotka, a constituency in the far east of Russia.

After resigning from his role of governor, Abramovich continued to maintain a close political relationship with Putin.

Because of his ties to the now ‘pariah president’, and due owning valuable assets in the UK, Abramovich became one of seven oligarchs so far sanctioned by the UK government.

The sanctions are a response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine which began in February, and has so far led to thousands of military and civilian deaths.

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The new BBC documentary will look into Abramovich’s past to uncover how he made his vast fortune. It will also explore allegations of corruption, and Abramovich’s relationship with the Kremlin.

Journalist Richard Bilton, who has previously reported on child labour in Brazil, people smuggling in Senegal, and the Shannon Matthews case, to name a few, travelled to Siberia for this documentary.

Abramovich is believed to have moved his yacht out of EU jurisdictionAbramovich is believed to have moved his yacht out of EU jurisdiction
Abramovich is believed to have moved his yacht out of EU jurisdiction | Getty Images

What are the sanctions against Abramovich?

Abramovich was given a full asset freeze and a travel ban by the UK government on 10 March.

This means that Abramovich cannot sell his UK assets, which includes several London properties and, of course, Chelsea FC, which Abramovich has owned since 2003.

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The oligarch can only sell the club if he can demonstrate that he won’t receive any of the proceeds.

Under the sanctions, Chelsea is unable to sell tickets or merchandise but can still take in revenue from broadcast deals and prize money.

The EU is also in talks to adopt sanctions against Abramovich this week.

To avoid the sting of fresh sanctions, Abramovich recently moved his private jet and yacht, the Solaris, out of EU jurisdiction.

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His jet was flown to Israel on Monday and is expected to leave the same day, while his yacht is suspected to have travelled from Barcelona to Montenegro, which is not a member of the EU.

Where can I watch Roman Abramovich’s Dirty Money?

The half-hour Panorama documentary will air at 8pm on BBC One on 14 March and will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer shortly after it is first broadcast.

The documentary will be repeated at 12.10am on 19 March.

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