LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is searching out the helicopters and jets belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs and has asked the Isle of Man to deregister Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich’s personal helicopter, a transport ministry source said on Friday.
Abramovich was among seven more oligarchs put under British sanctions on Thursday, meaning his assets, mainly property, private jets and helicopters will be frozen, with no financial transaction being able to take place in relation to them.
The action also puts on ice Abramovich’s plans to sell Premier League club Chelsea, effectively placing the current European champions under government control. The team can carry on playing but the government says it is open to selling the club so long as Abramovich himself did not benefit.
An ally of transport minister Grant Shapps said: “Grant has ordered his officials to gather intelligence on suspect aircraft, including their ownership and flight plans.”
“If we find they belong to persons on the sanctions list or people resident in Russia they will be grounded. He’s calling time on the oligarchs’ flying gin palaces.”
The source said the minister was asking the Isle of Man, a self-governing territory under British sovereignty, to deregister Abramovich’s personal helicopter, which is currently carrying the registration M-HELI.
The Isle of Man has been a popular place for owners of private jets to register because, experts say, registration on the island allowed imports to avoid any sales tax.
The luxury Airbus Helicopter EC-155 flew out of Stansted bound for Cannes on March 3, following the departure of his customised Boeing 767, which the source said was nicknamed “The Bandit”, from Stansted a few days earlier, en route for Switzerland.
It is not clear where Abramovich is.
The Isle of Man, which maintains its own aviation register, has already deregistered eight Russian-linked aircraft.
Britain said on Wednesday it had impounded a plane connected to a Russian billionaire close to Abramovich under the new aviation sanctions which give authorities the power to detain any Russian aircraft and to ban exports of aviation or space-related goods to Russia.
The source said that investigation was continuing.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)