Two children of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich used Lithuanian passports to help take control of some of his wealth, which may have safeguarded it from sanctions imposed on their father just weeks later, leaked documents reveal.
Abramovich transferred the partial or complete ownership of trusts holding at least US$4 billion to his seven children in February 2022, shortly after the U.K. and the U.S. threatened to sanction Russian oligarchs if Russia invaded Ukraine, The Guardian reported in January.
What was unreported at the time was that two of those children –– Arkadiy, 30, and Anna, 31 –– were Lithuanian citizens when they were declared as the new beneficiaries of Abramovich’s Grano Trust Fund, which is based in the self governing U.K. dependency of Jersey.
Siena, OCCRP’s Lithuanian member center, discovered details of the transfer in documents leaked from a Cyprus-based corporate service provider. The documents included a scan of Arkadiy’s passport, as well as passport information for Anna.
A lawyer for Abramovich did not respond to requests for comment.
The transfer took place during February and March 2022 as Russia was invading Ukraine. The U.K. and European Union sanctioned Abramovich in March.
The leaked documents suggest that Abramovich’s transfer of just over half of the Grano Trust gave Arkadiy and Anna enough money to put them on the list of the 500 richest Lithuanians released annually by the Naujienų Centras publishing group, provided the details about their citizenship had been known.
There was nothing illegal about Abramovich transferring ownership of the trust to his children. Nevertheless, Vytis Jurkonis, a political scientist based in Vilnius, said many Lithuanians may be angered at the suggestion that Abramovich’s children used the passports to help shield their father’s wealth from sanctions.
“The citizenship of the children of such an oligarch should have been on the radar of several institutions,” Jurkonis told Siena.
Lithuania is one of the E.U.’s staunchest allies of the Ukraine, and Abramovich is accused of having close ties with the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he pointed out.
The government could withdraw their citizenship given the political context and the recent scandal involving Margarita Drobiazko, a former Lithuanian ice skating star in the winter Olympics, he said. After Drobiazko decided to continue performing in Russia with the war on Ukraine still ongoing, Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda decided to revoke her citizenship, granted exclusively for the athlete’s achievements.
“We have seen such decisions, with the sport stars, being taken based on political will. I would not exclude that the future of documents issued to these people [the Abramovich siblings] will also be under reconsideration,” Jurkonis said.
The leaked documents show that Arkadiy’s passport expired on Tuesday, and it is not known whether it has been renewed.
Lithuania’s Migration Department declined to disclose information on the citizenships of Anna and Arkadiy, citing the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which safeguards individual privacy.
"The fact that Roman Abramovich is well known across the world both for his activities and for being under EU sanctions does not mean his family members become public figures,” the department told Siena in an email.
Lithuania allows citizenship to be granted to the descendents of people who held it before Russia occupied the country in 1940.
Abramovich’s grandparents on his father’s side were living in Lithuania in the 1940’s, and his grandfather was among thousands of Lithuanians deported to Siberia, where he died.
In 2018, Roman Abramovich paid a surprise visit to Lithuania, and reportedly rented all of the rooms in Pacai, one of the most expensive hotels in the capital city of Vilnius. The visit sparked speculations about him likely attempting to obtain a Lithuanian passport himself.