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Leaked files reveal Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is major donor to Israeli settler group…


James Rothwell
The Telegraph . Tue, September 22, 2020, 2:22 PM GMT+2
Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, has been revealed as the main donor of an Israeli settler group accused of ejecting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

An investigation by BBC Arabic found that four companies owned or controlled by Mr Abramovich have donated more than $100m (£77m) to Elad, a pro-settler organisation with links to the eviction of Palestinian families from the Silwan neighbourhood.

Settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are controversial as many countries, including Britain, say they are a breach of international law – though Israel and the United States dispute this. The British government has previously warned Israel against settler expansion in East Jerusalem as it presents “an obstacle to peace.”

BBC Arabic said it has seen evidence that Elad has funded the eviction process of a number of Palestinian families, including the Sumarin family, which has lived in the area since the 1950s.

A spokesman for Elad told the BBC that it abides by the laws and regulations set by the Israeli government for non-profit organisations.

Elad also runs archaeological digs at its City of David site in Silwan, which it uses to educate the public about Jerusalem’s Jewish history.

It’s estimated that 450 Israeli settlers live in Silwan, along with 20,000 Palestinians, but the settler population is gradually increasing.

The funding for Elad was disclosed after BuzzFeed News obtained a massive leak of financial data, known as the FinCEN files, that was then shared with other major news organisations such as the BBC.

A Palestinian girl walks towards an alley leading to the Qaqaa Bin Amr mosque, in the mostly Arab east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan – AFP

It means that Mr Abramovich, a Russian-Jewish billionaire who secured Israeli citizenship in 2018, has been Elad’s largest source of funding for the past 15 years. He is also a major donor to various Israeli research and development projects.

A spokesman for Mr Abramovich told the BBC: “Mr Abramovich is a committed and generous supporter of Israeli and Jewish civil society, and over the past 20 years he has donated over $500 million to support healthcare, science, education and Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.”

Another cache of leaked FinCen files seen by the BBC allege that a UK bank may have processed funds linked to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza strip.

The BBC reported that Standard Chartered bank may have indirectly provided financial support to Hamas from 2014 to 2016, when the bank raised concerns in a report about “possible terrorist financing.”

In response, a Standard Chartered bank spokesman said: “We take our responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programmes.”

The Telegraph has approached Elad for comment.

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