Roman Abramovich - Photo: EPA/ANDY RAIN

Roman Abramovich thwarted in bid to sell €10 million Quinta do Lago property

PJ and CGD sound alert, ensuring property “frozen” under terms of European sanctions

Roman Abramovich – Portugal’s richest citizen, and a Russian oligarch with close links to Vladimir Putin  – is back in the news this weekend, thanks to new revelations on his fast-tracked ‘Sephardic Jew’ nationality – and the fact that he ‘owns’ a €10 million property in the Algarve’s ‘golden triangle’ which he tried to sell two weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Up till now, there had been almost nothing in the press about the 55-year-old businessman having assets in this country.

According to reports, this is because the mansion home in Quinta do Lago is not registered in his name. It belongs to a company (Millhouse Views LLC) which belongs to a company (Millhouse LLC) which is ‘detained’ by Mr Abramovich.

Had he not tried to sell it, authorities may never have been the wiser. But his attempts to cash-in assets in a number of countries (before they were frozen) set off regulatory alarm bells.

In this case the buyer, David William Dalzell from northern Ireland, requested a €5 million mortgage from State bank CGD (Caixa Geral de Depósitos), writes Expresso, citing an exclusive in Público.

“Even though Millhouse Views LLC has connections to Roman Abramovich, David William Dalzell informed CGD that he owned half of the selling company, and the remaining 50% belonged to his ex-wife Deborah Louise Dalzell. The €5 million mortgage was to serve to pay for the half that belonged to his ex-wife, from whom he was divorcing.

“In Portugal, according to the Bank of Portugal’s database, David William Dalzell has only one account, at EuroBic, which was opened in October 2020 and has a current balance of €8,030, after having received two transfers; one of €20,000 from Denmark, and another of €7,500 from a company registered on British territory”, the paper continues.

“The relationships between the companies, and the attempt to buy and sell was enough to convince the (PJ’s) Criminal Investigation Unit that the deal behind the request for CGD financing served only for Roman Abramovich to sell the property in Quinta do Lago, as he did with various properties that he owned directly or indirectly a little throughout the world, before and the during the first days of the invasion by Russia of Ukraine, in an attempt to get round the freezing of assets” imposed by the EU.

As all this was going on, on Mr Abramovich himself was ‘sanctioned’ on March 15 for being one of the main shareholders in the Evraz steel group, which operates in sectors of strategic significance to the government of Russia. “The businessman’s ties to Vladimir Putin have long been identified”, adds Expresso.

Exactly 10 days later, the ‘ownership’ of the Quinta do Lago property was frozen, at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This far, nothing further has been explained about David William Dalzell, or his connections with Mr Abramovich. But the story follows others that appeared in the press as sanctions bit following the Russian invasion, describing ‘young Russians’ trying to purchase high-value properties in the Algarve with no financial history behind them.

Under laws to prevent money-laundering these young Russians were quizzed on certain details – and the various deals blocked when their answers fell short.

Explain reports: “The high value of the properties added to the age of the young people raised suspicions about the real buyers. The hypothesis was that the young Russians were front men of oligarchs, billionaires and Russian entities prevented from doing business in this country”.

“National Interest” and name dropping used to pressure Registrar’s Office to issue Abramovich’s Portuguese nationality

And yet another crinkle has appeared in the convoluted process of establishing the Russian oligarch’s Sephardic Jewish roots (which won him Portuguese nationality).

The matter is already the subject of police investigation, with the spiritual leader of the Porto Jewish Community rabbi Daniel Litvak an arguido, suspected of crimes of corruption and document falsification.

But now it seems the Central Registry Office (CRC) was pressured to accelerate the naturalisation process of Roman Abramovich for reasons of “national interest” that “involve the government itself”, B’nai B’rith International (a global Jewish organisation) and a group of Portuguese Sephardic Jews “listed in Forbes” (the listing that charts the world’s most wealthy).

Again citing an exclusive in Público, Expresso describes an email from the Porto Jewish Community (CIP) sent to Maria de Lurdes Serrano, director of CRC, with a series of arguments (for expediting Mr Abramovich’s paperwork).

“CIP used the name of former economy minister Pedro Siza Vieira to reinforce the request”, the paper explains, by stressing an upcoming event: “In June 2021, his excellency the Minister of the Economy will be invited to be a speaker at an international annual even of the BBB (B’nai B’rith International) which will have speakers of Portuguese Jewish origin Michael Kadoorie (born in China), Roman Abramovich (born in Russia) and Jacob Safra (born in the United States of America”. 

“CIP also revealed that a previous meeting had taken place between members of CIP management and Pedro Siza Vieira at the Ministry of the Economy on September 16, 2020, with a view to possible strategic investments in Portugal by Jews of Portuguese origin”.

In other words, Maria de Lurdes Serrano was left with the distinct impression that she had to move fast on Mr Abramovich’s nationality.

CIP further insisted that the whole process should be kept as quiet as possible. “Given the brutal increase in antisemitism in Europe, and the certainty that this information will cause headlines and clamours against Jews – as Jewish history in Europe has taught us – we ask your esteemed excellency to take all precautions that this information doesn’t fall into the public domain”, CIP ended its email.

In three months, Abramovich’s nationality was done and dusted. This contrasts with the long months, if not years, it can take for other applicants with proven Sephardic Jewish heritage. 

Expresso explains that rubber stamps were speedily applied by the Ministry of Justice, the PJ (Judicial Police), SEF (borders agency), even the intelligence services (SIS) – all of which is exceedingly ‘interesting’ given that former economy minister Pedro Siza Vieira is now saying that he finds the fact that his name has been mentioned “extraordinary”. 

Talking to Público, Mr Siza Vieira (no longer in government) says he CAN remember meeting with a Jewish organisation; he really isn’t sure it was CIP, but he cannot remember Mr Abramovich’s name having come up…

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com