Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC

In this May 24, 2015 file photo Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, center, applauds after Chelsea were presented with the Premier League trophy after the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London. (AP)
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Updated 22 September 2020

Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC

  • Abramovich gave over $100m to Elad, which operates in illegally annexed East Jerusalem, over roughly 15 years
  • Russian oligrach’s money used to fund evictions of Palestinians from their homes

LONDON: Companies controlled by Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, have donated over $100 million to an Israeli settler organization carrying out activity illegal under international law in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a BBC News Arabic investigation.

The Russian oligarch donated the money to Elad, which also runs a tourism business in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, through offshore companies held in the British Virgin Islands.

Shahar Shilo, Elad’s former marketing director, said its strategy is using tourism “to create a different political reality” in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood.

The information emerged as a result of Buzzfeed’s Fincen Files leak, which released a deluge of secret financial information held by banks about many companies.

The leaked documents show that donations from four companies held in the British Virgin Islands made up nearly half of Elad’s entire donations from 2005 to 2018.

Abramovich was listed as the owner of three of those companies, and had a controlling stake in the fourth. This makes him the largest donor to Elad in the last 15 years.

A spokesman for Abramovich told the BBC that the oligarch “is a committed and generous supporter of Israeli and Jewish civil society, and over the past 20 years he has donated over $500 million to support health care, science, education and Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.”

Abramovich’s funds were used by Elad to purchase Palestinian homes in Silwan and strengthen the presence of Jewish settlers there.

The BBC also found that his donations were used to fund and campaign for the eviction of Palestinian families in the neighborhood.

One such family is the Sumarins, who live in a home adjacent to Elad’s visitor center. They have been fighting a long-running legal battle with a Zionist group that is trying to take over their home.

Elad pays all the group’s legal costs associated with the case, which will go to Israel’s Supreme Court in April 2021.

Mohammed Dahle, the Sumarin family’s lawyer for 10 years, said: “The probability of the survival of a Palestinian property, after it’s been declared that it’s a Jewish or Israeli property ... is most likely zero.”


UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

Updated 5 min 15 sec ago

UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

  • Husband Richard Ratcliffe: Iran has ordered Nazanin to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen”

LONDON: Britain on Friday warned Iran against throwing detained woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe back in jail, after hauling in Tehran’s envoy for a dressing-down over her emotive case.
The Foreign Office summoned Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad on Thursday to hear renewed demands from a senior official for an end to the British-Iranian captive’s “arbitrary detention.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC radio Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in a “horrific position,” after her husband said Iran has ordered her to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail.
Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen,” Raab said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who will turn 42 on Boxing Day, has been on temporary release from Tehran’s Evin prison and under house arrest since earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016 while visiting relatives with her young daughter.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — denied charges of sedition but was convicted and jailed for five years.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016. (AFP)

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said this week that the Foreign Office’s handling of the case “seems disastrous,” and that “the UK is dancing to Iran’s tune.”
Raab told the BBC: “We’ve made it very clear we want to try to put the relationship between the UK and Iran on a better footing.
“If Nazanin is returned to prison, that will of course put our discussions and the basis of those discussions in a totally different place. It is entirely unacceptable.”
Richard Ratcliffe linked the latest development to the postponement of a hearing that was due to take place on Tuesday in London to address Iran’s longstanding demand for the repayment by Britain of hundreds of millions from an old military equipment order.
“As Nazanin’s husband, I do think that if she’s not home for Christmas, there’s every chance this could run for years,” he said, accusing Iran of “hostage diplomacy.”