Swiss police opposed Roman Abramovich residency bid: official

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich had sought to move to Switzerland but withdrew his residency bid when it looked set to be rejected, a Swiss migration official said on Wednesday.

Swiss police opposed Roman Abramovich residency bid: official
Roman Abramovich's lawyer said a request for correction of facts had been filed with Swiss Federal Police. File photo: AFP

The saga surrounding the Chelsea owner's attempt to relocate to the country was first reported by the Tribune de Geneve (TdG) newspaper, which claimed Abramovich was turned away after Swiss police claimed he posed a security risk.

In a rare move, the TdG newspaper published the article in both French and English, highlighting Abramovich's high profile internationally. The story was also published in English by other newspapers in the Tamedia group, which owns the TdG,

Abramovich had applied for residency in Valais canton, which includes the luxury ski resort of Verbier, Jacques de Lavallaz, the head of the cantonal migration service, told the AFP new agency in an email. 

Valais gave Abramovich the green light, de Lavallaz said, but federal authorities have the final say on Swiss migration decisions. 

“The (federal) secretariat of migration was going to make a negative decision but Mr. Abramovich's representatives withdrew their client's application before a decision was issued,” de Lavallaz said. 

The migration secretariat's decision was based on an analysis conducted by Swiss federal police, de Lavallaz explained, without discussing details of their conclusions. 

He stressed that the application was withdrawn before a final decision was rendered. 

According to the TdG, Abramovich applied to move to Verbier in 2016. 

The newspaper said that police argued he was linked to “alleged money laundering and alleged contacts to criminal organisations.”

Police claimed “that Abramovich's presence in the country would constitute a reputational risk for Switzerland – and possibly even a public security risk,” the newspaper further reported.  

The newspaper also posted a statement from an individual identified as Abramovich's lawyer, criticising Swiss officials and the release of his personal information. 

“We have filed a request for correction of facts to the Swiss Federal Police and will be filing a criminal complaint against unknown persons responsible for dissemination of this confidential information,” the lawyer, Daniel Glasl, said in the statement. 

“Any suggestion that Mr. Abramovich has been involved in money laundering or has contacts with criminal organisations is entirely false,” he added. 

It also noted that Abramovich has no criminal record.

The TdG said Swiss police raised concern over a commodities trading company that had been controlled by Abramovich called Runicom, which was the subject of a money laundering investigation by Geneva prosecutors in the 1990s. 

Glasl stressed that the company was “long-ago cleared of any wrongdoing.” 

The TdG said that Switzerland's federal court gave it permission last week to publish the story, after a seven month legal battle with Abramovich's lawyers.

Abramovich, who bought Chelsea in 2003, was granted Israeli citizenship earlier this year after the British authorities reportedly delayed approving a visa for him. 


Amnesty decries Swiss asylum centre abuse

Minors and adults housed in Swiss asylum centres have faced serious abuses at the hands of security staff, including beatings and chokeholds, Amnesty International warned Wednesday.

Amnesty decries Swiss asylum centre abuse
An asylum centre in the Alpine village of Realp, Central Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In a report, the rights organisation’s Swiss chapter detailed “alarming abuse” in the country’s federal asylum centres, and called for urgent government action to address the problem.

The report documents a range of abuses by staff of the private security companies Securitas and Protectas, which had been contracted by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

Amnesty said it had spoken with 14 asylum seekers, including two minors, who reported having faced abuse from the security officers between January 2020 and April 2021, along with 18 current and former security agents and other witnesses.

The asylum seekers described being beaten and physically restrained to the point where they could not breathe or fainted.

Some also complained about trouble breathing after being doused with pepper spray, and being locked in a metal container in freezing temperatures.

The report found that six of the alleged victims had to be hospitalised, while two said they had been denied the medical assistance they had requested.

“In addition to complaints about physical pain, mistreatment and punitive treatment, these people also voiced concerns about (security staff’s) hostility, prejudice and racism towards the residents,” said Alice Giraudel, a lawyer with Amnesty’s Swiss branch.

Such attitudes had seemed to target people of North African origin in particular, she said. Some of the abuse cases, Amnesty said, “could amount to torture”, and would thus violate Switzerland’s obligations under international law.

In a media statement, the SEM said it took the criticism “very seriously”, but rejected the suggestion that abuses were taking place in a systematic manner in federal asylum centres.

It stressed that there was no acceptance for “disproportionate constraint” of asylum seekers, and vowed to “sanction all improper behaviour.”

Giraudel hailed that the SEM had recently announced it would open an external probe into isolated abuse allegations.

But, she insisted, the situation was alarming and required the government to stop looking at allegations of abuse as the work of “a few bad apples”.