Manchester City owner probed over Russia links
The UK government must investigate if Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour assisted wealthy Russians under Western sanctions in moving their assets to the United Arab Emirates, lawyers representing an anonymous Ukrainian activist have said.
“Sheikh Mansour is a particularly high-profile individual and as the owner of one of the United Kingdom’s most celebrated football clubs, is a person who ought to be subject to reasonable scrutiny by the UK government,” a letter sent to UK foreign secretary James Cleverly reads, according to numerous sources on Friday.
It adds that following the discovery of what the letter says is a “wealth of evidence” linking Sheikh Mansour “with the accommodation of wealthy Russians in the UAE,” there is a basis “for the UK government to conduct an investigation.” The request for an update from Cleverly follows an initial inquiry from the same legal team in September last year. The Ukrainian activist behind the letter is maintaining their anonymity for fear of reprisal, reports say.
The letter calls upon UK lawmakers to determine if Mansour should be considered a “designated person” who would be subject to financial sanctions under the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
If a government investigation were to conclude that Mansour was an individual subject to sanctions, it would disqualify him from owning Manchester City under updated ownership rules in the English Premier League published in March. Mansour would be potentially liable for sanctions if he was determined to have participated in actions that threaten or undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
The letter adds that “many Russian oligarchs appear to have found a home for their wealth in the United Arab Emirates, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi apparently being particularly attractive to those individuals.”
In response, a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) said: “We will not tolerate attempts to help Russian oligarchs hide their assets in complex financial networks and in April introduced a sanctions package to crack down on their enablers.”
The FCDO is “aware” of Russian efforts to circumvent sanctions, the Guardian said on Friday. The newspaper also notes that the governmental body has increased its efforts in various countries, including the UAE, Türkiye, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Armenia and Serbia, to disrupt Russian efforts to source sanctioned goods used in weapons manufacturing.
Last week, the UK government said that in excess of 1,800 had been sanctioned under its regulations. About 1,600 of these came following the onset of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine last year – one of whom was former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who was later forced to sell the Premier League giants.
Sheikh Mansour purchased Manchester City in 2008. During his tenure as owner, the club has won seven Premier League titles, six League Cups, three FA Cups and one UEFA Champions League. Mansour has attended just two matches since gaining ownership of the club.