Roman Abramovich secretly financed Dutch football club, according to leaked documents

Roman Abramovich, who also owned Chelsea, secretly funded the takeover and continued to bankroll it for years.

The Netherlands soccer association conducted two investigations and was unable to find any financial ties between Abramovich, Vitesse Arnhem and Vitesse Arnhem. They concluded that Abramovich had no managerial influence over Vitesse. Vitesse, under its former owners, and Chelsea, under Abramovich repeatedly denied that the Russian oligarch had any financial ties to the Dutch club.

The Oligarch files contain financial information, including leaked data from MeritServus, an offshore service provider based in Cyprus. The Bureau of Investigative journalism reviewed the documents and found that at least EUR117m (PS102.8m), in secret funding came from Abramovich to finance Vitesse’s takeover. This money was funneled through a number of entities registered in offshore tax havens.

At the time of the 2010 takeover led by Merab Jordania, a former Georgian footballer, links to Chelsea were rumored. At the inaugural press conference, he called Abramovich his friend. However, Jordania denied that the oligarch was involved.The Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) launched a first investigation into the financing of the takeover but found nothing to conflict with its rules.

After Jordania’s purchase, suspicions of links continued. Chelsea used Vitesse, which is a Dutch Eredivisie club, as a partner club. This allowed players who weren’t ready to play in the English Premier League to be loaned to Vitesse and gain valuable experience. Many Chelsea players were loaned to Vitesse during the 2010s. This included the Serbian international Nemanja Maatic, and Mason Mount, the current Chelsea and England player who played for Vitesse in 2017-18.

After Jordania’s departure in 2013, another Abramovich associate, Alexander Chigirinsky (a Russian businessman), was asked further questions. Vitesse and Jordania then revealed that Chigirinsky had been financially involved with the club since the 2010 takeover.

Jordania claimed that Chelsea was involved. He blasted Vitesse for being unable to strengthen its team to win the Eredivisie. Vitesse also wanted to qualify for the Uefa Champions League. “London didn’t want that.” Later, he withdrew his comments and maintains that there was no truth.

The second KNVB investigation concluded that there were no evidences that Chelsea had any say in Vitesse’s policy.

It was reported in 2017 that Abramovich associates based at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge offices were involved in Vitesse’s takeover. Chelsea did not respond to the report, but stated that they had a good working relationship with Vitesse Arnhem as with other clubs.

Uefa rules, which are the European football confederation’s rules, require that clubs playing against one another must be independently owned and run “to protect the integrity of competitions” and that no individual or legal entity can have influence or control over more than one club in any Uefa club competition.According to the leaked documents, Vitesse was funded by Abramovich with loans in excess of EUR117m (102.8m). This is according to the leaked trove. Vitesse’s total turnover for 2014-15 was EUR14m (12.3m). This was a significant investment.

After becoming a Russian oil and gaz billionaire, Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003. He poured PS2bn into Chelsea to finance the signings of top-level stars. They achieved unprecedented success, winning twice the Champions League. After being under sanctions after Russia’s invasion, Abramovich had to sell Chelsea.

KNVB reported in 2010 that Marindale Trading had been involved in financing Jordania’s purchase of Vitesse. Although they believed a connection could have been made with Chigirinsky’s, they said that there was no evidence to support the possibility of Mr Abramovich having managerial influence. In 2015 , the second investigation found that there was no evidence that Chelsea had any influence over Vitesse’s policies.

These arrangements are further illuminated by the Oligarch files. These files do not indicate whether Abramovich and his club had managerial influence at Vitesse. They strongly suggest that Abramovich provided substantial funding for the club.

Loan agreements and other documents show that Marindale Trading, a newly registered company in the British Virgin Islands, was responsible for financing the takeover.

Abramovich appears to have originated the loans. Ovington Worldwide, a British Virgin Islands company, borrowed EUR20m from a Liechtenstein company. Documents indicate that the loan was made to Chigirinsky: Trigonia Anstalt. Ovington Worldwide was owned and controlled by Electus Investments, a BVI company. Roman Abramovich, the only beneficiary of Sara Trust, was also the ultimate beneficiary of Ovington, the BVI company that loaned the money to Trigonia.

Ovington had lent EUR20m to Trigonia on the same day that Marindale Trading borrowed EUR20m from Marindale Trading. Marindale Trading was also involved in the loan. Marindale borrowed the same amount as Ovington, EUR20m to Jordania, which was used to purchase Vitesse. This was more than the EUR6m Vitesse purchase price, rising to EUR8m.

Five loans totaling millions of euro were made to Jordania during the three years Jordania owned Vitesse. They all followed the exact same pattern. Ovington, Abramovich’s company, loaned money money to Trigonia, a Chigirinsky-linked business; Limburg Holdings then lent money to Marindale Trading. This money was almost always lent to Jordania’s holding company for Vitesse almost every day.

These documents don’t show Trigonia sending money to Limburg. The money was then loaned to Marindale. The documents and matches of dates, however, strongly suggest that money was transferred from Ovington’s company to Vitesse via the Chigirinsky-linked businesses.

The documents show that after Jordania’s departure in 2013, Chigirinsky officially took over as Vitesse owner. However, Trigonia was no longer part of the Vitesse chain. Ovington, Abramovich’s company, loaned millions to Limburg. Marindale then made loans to Limburg. The Vitesse holding company was then able to borrow the same amount. At least one additional loan was also recorded in this manner, even though the KNVB was conducting the second inquiry.

The loans were rerouted one last time in December 2015. Wotton Overseas was another Abramovich company, registered in the BVI. According to documents, Wotton Overseas was owned by Europa Trust, Abramovich’s beneficiary. The total amount of loans Abramovich’s companies made available in this manner was equal to the amount ultimately made available for Marindale Trading, which funded Vitesse, at EUR166m. EUR117m seems to have been taken out.

Chigirinsky was in charge of Vitesse from May 2018 until he sold it.

Jordania answered a telephone interview about the arrangements. She said that Abramovich was his friend, as well as Chigirinsky, and that they had both lent her money for Vitesse.

He said, “Yes, it is true.” “It was my personal initiative and they supported it very much when I purchased the club with my resources. Then when I started the project, sometimes money wasn’t enough so I used also money of my friends, first of all Roman Abramovich and Chigirinsky.”

Jordania stated that although he told Abramovich that Vitesse was his priority, the money was lent to Jordania personally and not for Vitesse.

“It was, let’s say, personal debt. My personal debt to Abramovich & Chigirinsky.”

According to the KNVB, its two investigations by forensic accounting firms were into “the governance and whether there were any ties with Chelsea FC or Roman Abramovich.” Based on the evidence presented to them, neither firm could discover such ties.” In 2010, the investigators relied on public information. The second was based on Vitesse documents and information. KNVB was required to rely upon the information given to it by Vitesse, as it does not have “public investigation powers” like the police, a spokesperson said.

A Vitesse spokesperson said that the club’s holding company received loans of EUR136.6m from Marindale Trading between 2010 and 2016. These were then invested in the club as share premiums. According to the spokesperson,

“Vitesse does not know of any loans between companies owned by Mr Chigirinsky or Mr Abramovich,” said a representative of the club.

Chigirinsky didn’t respond to specific requests for comment. At the time of publication, Demetris Ioannides (a managing partner at MeritServus) did not respond to a request for comment. He previously stated that trust law and data privacy regulations prohibited him from disclosing any information to third parties.

Lawyers for Bruce Buck, the Chelsea chairman Throughout the period, he replied to questions by saying: “As for Vitesse, our client does not know or recall the allegations concerning arrangements between Mr Abramovich, Vitesse, or statements made about Vitesse by CFC. If the events described occurred, it is not something our client was involved in.

According to lawyers for Chelsea, Abramovich could answer all questions as the club was under new ownership since May 2022.