Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich wanted to set up home near Verbier, Canton Valais, in 2016 but withdrew his application a year later after a negative preliminary response from federal authorities in Bern, report two Sunday newspapers.
Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung say they know the reason why Abramovich withdrew his application but are prevented from publishing it because of a court order obtained by the billionaire in Zurich.
“Our editorial team will continue fighting to get the ban lifted on this information, which we consider to be in the public interest,” the papers say.
According to their report, Abramovich received a positive preliminary decision on his residence request from authorities in Valais. This was confirmed to the Swiss News Agency, ATS, by Jacques de Lavallaz, head of the cantonal immigration service.
However, when the file was transferred to Bern it was provisionally rejected by the federal authorities. Abramovich was granted the right to a hearing, after which he withdrew his request, according to Lavallaz. But he said the Valais authorities did not know the reason for Bern’s decision.
Le Matin Dimanche says this case puts the spotlight on “exceptional residence permits for rich foreigners” which Switzerland can grant in rare cases considered “of major public interest” – generally, their potential tax contributions.
It says that in the last ten years 578 people have got such permits. One of them is Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose presence in Canton St. Gallen has been controversial. Socialist members of the cantonal parliament considered that the tax revenues were not a sufficient reason to grant residence compared with the possible risk to reputation represented by a Russian oligarch.
Abramovich is 139th on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, with assets worth some $9 billion, according to Le Matin Dimanche. The paper also noted that he is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.