UK unable to prove case for sanctions against Russian oligarchs like Abramovich, Times says

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. [Reuters]

Britain will not be able to sanction Roman Abramovich and other Russian oligarchs for weeks or months - if at all - because the government has been unable to prove reasonable grounds for designating the businessmen, The Times newspaper reported.

"The Foreign Office and National Crime Agency have been unable to prove that there are 'reasonable grounds' for designating the UK’s most prominent oligarchs for sanctions because they have struggled to link their finances to the Putin regime," The Times said.

Britain's foreign office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A National Crime Agency (NCA) spokesman said he could not comment on the Times report.

He added the NCA was only one of the agencies involved in providing evidence or intelligence on whether someone should be sanctioned.

"It isn't just down to us to make the case," the spokesman said. "If we were in a possession of material that would support sanctioning an individual we would provide it."

There have been growing calls from British lawmakers for Abramovich to face sanctions, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he could not comment on individual cases on Wednesday when asked why the Russian billionaire businessman had not been targeted.

Abramovich said on Wednesday he had decided to sell Chelsea Football Club, 19 years after buying the London side, and promised to donate money from the sale to help victims of the war in Ukraine.

"I have always taken decisions with the club's best interest at heart," Abramovich said in a statement published by the reigning European and world soccer champions on their website.

"In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club's sponsors and partners."

Abramovich said he would not ask for loans he has made to the club - reported to total 1.5 billion pounds ($2.0 billion) - to be repaid to him and the sale would not be fast-tracked.

He said he had told his aides to set up a charitable foundation that would receive all net proceeds from the sale.