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FinCEN Files reveal Chelsea owner Abramovich largest funder of Israeli group displacing Palestinian families


Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has donated over a hundred million dollars to a controversial Israeli settler group accused of displacing Palestinian families from Jerusalem.

According to leaked documents seen by BBC News Arabic, four companies Abramovich either owns or controls in the British Virgin Islands have contributed more than $100m (£74m) to Elad, a group that supports settlements in the Palestinian neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem called Silwan .

Settlement activity on occupied land is considered illegal under international law.

The Russian oligarch, who was granted Israeli citizenship in 2018 after the UK government withdrew his UK Visa, has been an avid philanthropist in Israel.

Elad, which also receives backing from the Israeli government, has sought to strengthen the Jewish presence in the neighbourhood of Silwan at the expense of its Arab residents.

Elad runs an archaeological site in Silwan called the City of David 2hich has been criticised by European Union diplomats as seeking to ignore the ancient city’s diverse history in favour of “an exclusively Jewish narrative, while detaching the place from its Palestinian surroundings”.

The City of David website said it is “committed to continuing King David’s legacy as well as revealing and connecting people to ancient Jerusalem’s glorious past through four key initiatives: archaeological excavation, tourism development, educational programming and residential revitalization”.

BBC News Arabic discovered the Abramovich donations while trawling through thousands of leaked documents detailing $2tn (£1.55tn) of potentially corrupt transactions that were washed through the US financial system.

More than 2,000 suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed with the US government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) were leaked to Buzzfeed News, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which the BBC is a member.

Banks and other financial institutions file SARs when they believe a client is using their services for potential criminal activity. While a SAR in itself does not oblige a bank to cease doing business with the client in question, they point to contentious actions hidden in the financial world.

The leaks, dubbed the FinCEN Files, have already rocked the financial sector, with allegations of dirty money flowing freely around the world. Shares in the banking sector fell on Monday. Other high-profile figures, such as Trump’s former political strategist, Paul Manafort, has also been identified in a SAR.

Abramovich had been the subject of a 2016 SAR regarding offshore shell companies related to his football business.