EXCLUSIVE by James Bryce

BILLIONAIRE Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich once tried to obtain a British passport via the back door in Gibraltar, it has been claimed.

The Russian oligarch is alleged to have asked if a British lawyer could arrange citizenship, almost a decade before he bought the west London club.

The claims were made by the lawyer of fellow Russian Boris Berezovsky, who is currently suing Abramovich for £3 billion in the UK courts.

During the hearing in London, Laurence Rabinowitz QC asked Abramovich whether he had tried to obtain a Gibraltarian, or even British, passport.

In evidence he produced a letter dated November 1994 from Abramovich’s close associate Eugene Shividler to British lawyer Stephen Curtis.

The letter says that Abramovich asked him to look into information on Gibraltarian travel documents.

Abramovich however, claims to have no memory of the request, saying: “This was Mr Curtis’s proposal.

At the time Russian citizens had difficulty obtaining visas, there were long waiting queues and big hassles.

“He suggested that the problem might be solved this way. But we never went further than this.

“To this day I don’t even know whether such passports exist.”

He claims that Abramovich threatened and intimidated him into selling his share in an oil firm.

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