Always denied, but Roman Abramovich would have channeled 117 million euros to Vitesse Arnhem via letterbox companies

Vitesse was already shaken to its foundations by all the major problems that threaten the club. There is the threat of relegation, the extremely difficult transition from Russian to American ownership, which has raised questions about the financial strength of the intended new owner Coley Parry, a lingering issue about the stadium rent, a departing main sponsor and a management crisis, in which the commercial director suddenly pulling the strings.

The Dutch Football Association has looked into the links between Vitesse and Abramovich in two investigations carried out by forensic accountants, but could not prove that the Chelsea owner was the man behind the Russian takeover with Merab Jordania, Alexander Chigirinsky and Valeriy Oyf as owners, all business friends of Abramovich. The KNVB’s research reads “there are no indications that Chelsea has a say in Vitesse’s policy.”

The Georgian Merab Jordania bought Vitesse in 2010. Three turbulent years later he left the club. He would go on to openly denounce Chelsea’s growing influence. — © BELGAIMAGE

The financial connection between Vitesse and Chelsea has now been demonstrated. In the so-called Oligarch files, a leak from a Cypriot server, documents found by The Guardian and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism show that at least 117 million euros in money flowed from Abramovich to Vitesse through opaque letterbox companies in tax havens. The Russian oligarch has thus financed Vitesse’s expenses.

There have always been strong suspicions of financial connections between Chelsea and Vitesse despite the denials of both clubs. Over the years, the Arnhem club has acted as a training club for the Londoners and a battalion of Chelsea players have been active in Arnhem, including Mason Mount and Nemanja Matic. That all three owners had strong connections to Abramovich reinforced the idea of ​​Vitesse as a Chelsea-funded club, but those involved have consistently denied this.

Mason Mount at Vitesse in a duel with Gert-Jan Demets from Zulte Waregem. Many Chelsea players, including Mount, were stabled at Vitesse to gain experience there. — © BELGIUM

UEFA rules require clubs that may compete against each other in a European context to be run independently to ensure the integrity of the competitions. The regulations state that “no individual or legal entity may control or influence more than one club participating in a UEFA club competition.” It cannot be deduced from the documents in the Oligarch Files that Abramovic or his club directly influenced the policy at Vitesse, but they clearly suggest that they made a significant financial contribution, writes The Guardian.

The British newspaper has contacted Jordania about the money flows, who have confirmed that Abramovich has loaned him money. “It was my personal project and they (Abramovich en Chigirinksky, red.) supported me very much when I bought the club with my resources and when there was a shortage of money, I also used the money of my friends, primarily Abramovich and Chigirinksy. It was a personal debt, so to speak, a personal debt to Abramovich and Chigirinsky.”

Bruce Buck, who was chairman of Chelsea at the time, told The Guardian that he has “no knowledge or recollection” of the arrangements. Another former director said that where necessary transactions between Chelsea and other clubs involved outside advisers “to ensure full compliance with all laws, rules and regulations.”

Vitesse has indicated to The Guardian that it had no knowledge of the financial connection. Both Chigirinsky and Abramovich declined to respond to questions from the English newspaper.

That is how the money flow from Abramovich to Vitesse ran

The investigative work of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian has exposed how the money flow from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to Vitesse ran.

In the KNVB’s first investigation into possible links between Chelsea and Vitesse, UEFA reported in 2010 that Marindale Trading, a company recently registered in the British Virgin Islands, had facilitated Jordania’s purchase of the Dutch club. It found that a connection could be made ‘through a web of companies’ to a company owned by Chigirinsky and his brother, in which Abramovich had a 16% stake. But the KNVB wrote that it had not found “certainty about the possible administrative influence of Mr. Abramovich or the Chigirinsky brothers.”

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Loan of unknown amount

The new documents reveal a chain of further loans that were routed to Marindale Trading through a network of entities in various tax havens, which ultimately appear to lead to Abramovich. In August 2010, one of Abramovich’s companies, Ovington Worldwide, registered in the British Virgin Islands, lent 20 million euros to Trigonia Anstalt, a Liechtenstein-registered entity allegedly associated with Chigirinsky.

On the same day, a loan of an undisclosed amount was made by Limburg Holdings, a Belize-based offshore entity, to Marindale Trading. Documents show that both companies were owned by Chigirinsky. Ten days later, Marindale loaned 20 million euros – the exact amount originally borrowed by Abramovich’s company – to the company using Jordania as a vehicle to buy Vitesse.

Philippe Cocu is currently a trainer of Vitesse, which is in a takeover. The club is just seven points above a relegation place. — © BELGIUM

Loans of millions

Over the next three years that Jordania owned Vitesse, five more loans were made, all following the same pattern. Abramovich’s company, Ovington, lent millions of euros to the Liechtenstein company associated with Chigirinsky. That company then modified its loan to Marindale Trading, and Marindale Trading then lent exactly the same amount to Vitesse, almost always on the same day.

The documents show no connection between the Liechtenstein company and Limburg, but identical matches of the dates and figures strongly suggest that this was the path the money ultimately took.

After Jordania left in 2013 and Chigirinsky formally took over as owner of Vitesse, the documents show the pattern continued, but with a different route. Abramovich’s company, Ovington, loaned millions directly to a Belize-based company apparently owned by Chigirinsky. That entity in turn lent money to Marindale Trading, which lent exactly the same amount to Vitesse. At least one of these loans was granted while the KNVB was conducting its second investigation.

Shortly after the investigation concluded, the loans were diverted one last time, when another of Abramovich’s companies, linked to another trust, took over the role of lender. In December 2015, the total loans made available in this way by Abramovich’s companies perfectly matched the amount finally made available to the company with which Chigirinsky financed Vitesse: 166 million euros.

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