London: Companies controlled by Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, have donated over $100 million to an Israeli settler organization carrying out activity illegal under international law in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a BBC News Arabic investigation.
The Russian oligarch donated the money to Elad, which also runs a tourism business in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, through offshore companies held in the British Virgin Islands.
Shahar Shilo, Elad’s former marketing director, said its strategy is using tourism “to create a different political reality” in the predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood.
The information emerged as a result of Buzzfeed’s Fincen Files leak, which released a deluge of secret financial information held by banks about many companies.
The leaked documents show that donations from four companies held in the British Virgin Islands made up nearly half of Elad’s entire donations from 2005 to 2018.
Abramovich was listed as the owner of three of those companies, and had a controlling stake in the fourth. This makes him the largest donor to Elad in the last 15 years.
A spokesman for Abramovich told the BBC that the oligarch “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 health care, science, education and Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.”
Abramovich’s funds were used by Elad to purchase Palestinian homes in Silwan and strengthen the presence of Jewish settlers there.
The BBC also found that his donations were used to fund and campaign for the eviction of Palestinian families in the neighbourhood.