The sanctioned Russian oligarch and former owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich, had substantial investments in Irish hedge funds in the years before the invasion of Ukraine, leaked documents show.
The Russian billionaire used an international network of offshore and onshore companies to administer his enormous wealth, with companies based in the Chelsea HQ at Stamford Bridge, London, forming part of a global network that until recently was clouded in obscurity.
The investments in the Irish funds were on behalf of a Cypriot trust that was one of a number of offshore trusts holding assets for the benefit of Abramovich. The beneficiaries of the Cypriot trust were changed two weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, with Abramovich being replaced as the trust’s sole beneficiary by members of his family, the leaked files show. On March 15th the EU imposed sanctions on Abramovich, citing his “long and close ties” to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
The leaked documents from six financial services businesses in Cyprus were shared with The Irish Times by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Paper Trail Media and Distributed Denial of Secrets, as part of an international project called Cyprus Confidential.
Among the documents are the 2018 accounts for Bradfield Overseas Holdings and Matterhorn Capital Ventures, two Abramovich companies that had investments worth $358 million (€359 million) in Irish hedge funds at the end of that year. The funds concerned were BG Fund and BG Liquid Strategies Fund, in the case of Bradfield, and MW Eureka Fund and MW Global Opportunities Fund in the case of Matterhorn.
The accounts show that the Irish funds ended the year with a net gain of $5.8 million and that $30 million was withdrawn from one fund during the year. The total value of the funds listed in the accounts, most of which were in the Cayman Islands, was $3 billion at the end of 2018. During the year investments worth $872 million were redeemed.
Bradfield and Matterhorn were owned by a company called Keygrove Holdings but ultimately controlled by an Abramovich trust called the HF Trust. Keygrove, Bradfield and Matterhorn were all based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) up to 2020, when they moved to Jersey, but the accounts were audited by Deloitte in Cyprus. Thackeray Investments Ltd, based in the BCI, acted as a corporate director of both Bradfield and Matterhorn. The companies’ other director, Gotcha Djabidze, with an address in Austria, was also director of MC Management (UK) GmbH, an Austrian company that had a registered address at Stamford Bridge in London. MC Management was ordered closed by the bankruptcy court in Vienna in May of last year.
The leaked files show that a key player in the administration of Abramovich’s wealth was Meritservus Secretaries Ltd, of Cyprus, whose files are among those shared with The Irish Times as part of Cyprus Confidential. Meritservus was established in 2005 by Cypriot accountant Demetris Ioannides, formerly of the Cypriot branch of Deloitte. In April of this year the UK imposed sanctions on Ioannides, saying he was “responsible for crafting the murky offshore structures which Abramovich used to hide over £760 million assets ahead of being sanctioned following Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine”.
The UK also imposed sanctions on Meritservus. The Cypriot accountant is among the signatories of the document that changed the beneficiaries of the HF Trust two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Among the leaked documents are two letters concerning Bradfield sent to the office in the IFSC in Dublin of SS&C Financial Services (Ireland) Ltd, the Irish branch of a global US fund administration business. One letter, dated February 2020, concerns Bradfield’s investment in the BG Fund and is from Thackeray, Bradfield’s corporate director. The letter confirms that Thackeray is not an affiliate of the sanctioned Russian oil firm Gazprom Neft, which is controlled by the Russian government. It is not clear why the letter was written. A request for a comment from SS&C met with no response.
Also in the leaked documents is a January 2021 letter from Meritservus to 12 banks, including Barclays Bank Ireland, Molesworth Street, Dublin, informing the banks that a company called Ervington Investments of Cyprus is owned by the Grano Trust, Jersey, of whom Abramovich, with an address in Moscow, is the ultimate beneficiary. The leaked documents contain details of several offshore trusts that hold assets for the benefit of Abramovich.
The documents show that Meritservus Secretaries had an account with Barclays Bank in Dublin. Among the documents is a record of a small payment to the Meritservus account in Barclays in October 2019 from David Davidovich. Davidovich is one of the two “protectors” of the HF Trust named in the February 2022 document that made Abramovich’s family the beneficiaries of the trust. In the document Davidovich, who was sanctioned by the UK government in April 2022, has an address in Tbilisi, Georgia. The other protector cited is Tatyana Haykin, with an address in Israel.
The leaked documents show that Davidovich and Haykin were also protectors of another Abramovich trust, the Sara Trust, of Cyprus, which was the ultimate owner of a company called MHC Services Ltd, based at Chelsea Football Club, Stamford Bridge, London. MHC is now in liquidation. Eugene Tenenbaum, a Canadian national with an address in Jersey, is a former director of Chelsea and of MHC Services. Tenenbaum was also placed on the sanctions list by the UK government last year.