Abramovich lends the owner of the Dutch football club, according to leaked documents

<span>Valerie Oyf, owner of Vitesse (left), and the former <a class=Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.Composite: Pro Shots/Sipa USA/Alamy; EPA” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/OO61R5wshiuBtKQ5qDHjwQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/94cd4148f24ac9c200e 4fb7466a067fb” data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/OO61R5wshiuBtKQ5qDHjwQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/94cd4148f24ac9c200e4fb7 466a067fb”/>

The owner of a leading Dutch football club has financed it with loans from Roman Abramovich, leaked documents reveal, raising questions about the continued influence the Russian oligarch, under EU and British sanctions, still has over the country. football.

Details of the scheme involving Valery Oyf, who took over ownership of Vitesse Arnhem in 2018, have been revealed by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).

Related: Geopolitics comes to Vitesse: how ‘Chelsea B’ was swallowed up by Abramovich colleagues | Jacob Steinberg

The papers raise questions about whether Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea FC, is still involved with a European club despite being subject to sanctions in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

They have emerged three weeks after the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) deducted 18 points from Vitesse for breaching licensing rules, officially confirming their relegation from the Eredivisie, the Netherlands’ top flight.

The KNVB began an investigation into Vitesse after reporting by The Guardian and TBIJ exposed apparent financial links between the club and Abramovich involving the club’s two previous owners. According to the KNVB, the club has received a record sanction for repeated violations of licensing rules and withholding information.

It added that there were “indications” that Abramovich, Chelsea’s former owner, controlled, or still controlled, the club, and that there were risks of sanctions breaches and money laundering.

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Change is investigating whether there are links between Vitesse and Abramovich, in light of the EU sanctions imposed on him in 2022, as part of an international effort to crack down on wealthy and powerful Kremlin allies in response to the invasion. of Ukraine.

Further pressing questions have been raised by new documents suggesting that Abramovich was the source of almost all the money, almost $200 million (£160 million), used by Oyf to finance an offshore company, Matteson Overseas Ltd.

The documents are part of the Cyprus Confidential files, shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism and Paper Trail Media.

Other associates of Abramovich are under sanctions in Britain, but not in the EU.

Oyf, a longtime business associate of Abramovich and previously a senior figure at Russian oil company Sibneft, has previously denied claims that the oligarch still had ties to Vitesse.

However, the paperwork sheds light on how Oyf ran Vitesse after its takeover in 2018. Oyf, who has so far been unsuccessful in its attempts to sell the club, owned Vitesse outright, but Matteson Overseas Ltd was used to provide them with financing and to provide financial guarantees. .

According to leaked documents seen by the Guardian and TBIJ, Matteson was almost entirely funded by Abramovich. Abramovich’s companies provided Matteson with tens of millions of dollars in loans, which were then invested in other entities associated with him and his asset management company Millhouse Capital. The profits generated were used to pay off loan debts and finance further ventures, including Vitesse.

Over the course of a decade, Abramovich loaned nearly $200 million to Matteson, who invested in several Millhouse-led ventures, including publicly traded companies such as Evraz and Highland Gold, mining concessions in Russia and large-scale securities lending. The documents come from Meritservus, a Cyprus-based financial services company that controlled much of Abramovich’s offshore network. The files show that Meritservus also acted for several Oyf companies that were closely linked to Abramovich.

Matteson has been based in the British crown dependency of Jersey since 2020 and shares a nominated director with several of Abramovich’s companies. Oyf also acted as director of Abramovich’s company Greenleas International in early 2022, during which time he approved the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars in assets just weeks before sanctions were imposed on Abramovich. One such deal included the sale of $61 million in shares in Russian search engine Yandex to Oyf’s own company.

Abramovich was forced to end his 19-year ownership of Chelsea after the imposition of sanctions by the British government, which oversaw the sale of the Premier League club to Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital. But revelations about his links with Vitesse, once described as ‘Chelsea B’ because of the close relationship between the teams, will raise questions among football authorities about the risks of multi-club ownership.

At first glance, it may seem beneficial for a small club like Vitesse to have a financial tie with Abramovich, whose wealth has taken Chelsea to unprecedented levels of success. Chelsea loaned a host of talented young players to the Premier League during Abramovich’s time at Stamford Bridge. However, the revelations in the documents suggest that the Dutch side was vulnerable to punishment from the KNVB after Abramovich was placed under sanctions by the EU.

It also appears that the rules of UEFA, European football’s governing body, on multi-club ownership were at risk of being breached by the Oyf-Abramovich deal. The rules state that “no individual or legal entity may have control or influence over more than one club participating in a UEFA club competition”, suggesting that an infringement would have occurred if Vitesse had ever been in the same competition as Chelsea before Abramovich had relinquished control. from the Stamford Bridge club.

Oyf is not under sanctions. He previously denied claims that Abramovich still had links with Vitesse. Oyf announced its intention to sell the club following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Vitesse is in major financial problems and was already at the bottom of the league before they received a penalty that left them at -1 points at that time. The KNVB licensing committee added that there was a risk of “violating” sanctions.

Vitesse said the deduction was “inevitable,” citing factors such as the filing of incorrect half-year financials and their inability to demonstrate they had no ties to Abramovich. They run the risk of having their professional license revoked, while the possibility of bankruptcy for the club looms.

Last year, TBIJ and The Guardian discovered that Abramovich had used a complex network of offshore companies to lend at least 117 million euros to Vitesse under its two previous owners, Merab Jordania and Alexander Chigirinsky, who are known to be close to the state to stand. oligarch. Oyf bought Vitesse from Chigirinsky.

Earlier this year, the KNVB rejected a proposed takeover of the club by the American private equity company Common Group, because the company had not provided sufficient information about the ultimate source of its funds.

In response to questions from the Guardian, a KNVB spokesperson said the transfer of ownership predated the ‘Know your owner’ regulations. “The Dutch licensing committee of the KNVB started a third investigation into Vitesse in 2023. The research was conducted by external parties/organizations. Under the regulations of the ‘Know your owner’ principle, a transfer of (25%+ of) the shares requires the prior approval of the Dutch licensing committee. The licensing committee expects Vitesse to demonstrate that it acts in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations regarding EU sanctions before any transfer of Vitesse shares is approved.”

Vitesse did not want to comment. Oyf, Abramovich, Chelsea and Meritservus representatives did not return requests for comment.

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