‘No truth’ to allegations that billionaire has close financial connections with Russian PM, says Abramovich’s spokesman
Luke Harding Wednesday 1 December 2010 *
Roman Abramovich offered a spirited response today to what his spokesman termed an “old story”, quoted in the leaked US embassy cables, that he was alleged to have links with Putin.
The Russian billionaire’s representative, Max Clifford, said: “This is an old story which has been mentioned in dispatches for years. Anybody who is rich and successful who comes out of Russia is seen to be closely tied up with Putin and his finances. But like many of these stories, there is no truth and no substance in it.”
Along with his fellow oligarchs, the Chelsea owner has supported Putin’s pet projects such as the Russian World Cup bid, the outcome of which will be announced tomorrow. He has sunk vast sums into sport in his homeland. As well as pouring $40m (£25m) a year into a national football academy, he has supported the bid financially and via his network of high-level contacts.
Abramovich, who acquired an estimated $8.5bn through control of part of the post-Soviet aluminium industry, is one of the most high-profile of his country’s group of billionaire oligarchs.
The Guardian put to him the claim mentioned in the cables that he and Putin had a close financial relationship. The story had been told, without any supporting evidence, to the then US deputy assistant secretary of state David Kramer at a 2007 meeting in Washington with a Russian opposition figure. The state department sent a report of the conversation, marked “confidential”, to the US embassy in Moscow.
Another spokesman, from Abramovich’s investment vehicle, Millhouse, later added: “The allegation is entirely absurd. Mr Abramovich has no financial relationship of any kind with prime-minister Putin.”