Threatening ally of Roman Abramovich would be ‘a suicide mission’, agent tells court

<span>‘I don’t think I’d be stupid enough to threaten anyone – let alone someone [connected] with the might of Roman Abramovich,’ Saif Alrubie told a court.</span><span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA</span>
‘I don’t think I’d be stupid enough to threaten anyone – let alone someone [connected] with the might of Roman Abramovich,’ Saif Alrubie told a court.Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

The football agent accused of sending an intimidating email to a Chelsea FC executive has said it would be “a suicide mission” to threaten anyone connected to the club’s former owner Roman Abramovich, a court has heard.

Saif Alrubie is charged with sending an “electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety” to the former Chelsea director of football Marina Granovskaia – as he attempted to collect £300,000 in commissions he believed he was owed in 2022.

Related: Kia Joorabchian ‘accosted’ by debt collectors working for agent Saif Alrubie, court told

He told the jury: “She was the right hand of Roman Abramovich, one of the biggest businessmen in the world. I don’t think I’d be stupid enough to threaten anyone – let alone someone [connected] with the might of Roman Abramovich … That would just be me on a suicide mission.”

The comments were made on the second day of Alrubie’s trial at Southwark crown court into allegations he is guilty of the offence contrary to the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

Earlier in the day the court heard how another well-known agent, Kia Joorabchian, had secretly flown to the US the night before he was due to give evidence in the high-profile criminal trial.

Jury members had been told to expect to hear key evidence from Joorabchian on Tuesday. However, on Wednesday they were informed by prosecution counsel that Joorabchian had taken a private jet to the US on Monday night without informing the court.

Joorabchian had been in touch with a police officer connected to the case on Tuesday, when he claimed he could not give evidence because he was unwell.

He was asked to provide a note from his doctor and, after police made “further repeated unanswered calls” to Joorabchian, the football agent then informed an officer that he was no longer in the country, the jury was told.

The development came after the prosecution had set out on Tuesday how, in May 2022, Granovskaia had received an intimidating email from Alrubie as he pursued a £300,000 payment for what he claims was his role in the transfer of the France defender Kurt Zouma from Chelsea to West Ham in 2021.

Alrubie’s message said: “I’m sure you’ve heard the story about your other friend Kia when he owed me money for a year and how he ended up paying it. Wouldn’t want you to be in the same situation just because you have a personal issue with me.’’

The message is alleged to refer to a supposed incident in 2013 when Joorabchian claims to have been confronted by about 12 debt collectors at his office – and separately relieved of his expensive watch at a ­restaurant – as part of an effort to put pressure on him into repaying money allegedly owed to Alrubie.

However, the court was also told how Joorabchian had complained to the police about the alleged incident, but that they could find no evidence that he had had his watch taken from him.

“The police have managed to find a police report dated 7 February 2013 when Mr Joorabchian made an initial allegation that he been apprehended by some men in a restaurant,” prosecutor Arizuna Asante told jurors, as he read out a series of facts agreed by both the prosecution and the defence. “The police thoroughly investigated that incident and the could find no link between that incident and the defendant. Mr Joorabchian never mentioned the name Saif Alrubie to the police at the time and Mr Alrubie’s name does not feature anywhere in the crime report.

“After making his allegation, the police attended the restaurant in which there were numerous CCTV cameras. Those cameras were checked and did not reveal the incident that Mr Joorabchian had reported.”

Earlier, the jury had been read the transcript of the police’s interview of Alrubie, after they had arrested him in September 2022 as he arrived in London from Dubai in order to watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II with his family.

After hours in a police cell he told officers that he felt “violated” and was being treated like the drug lord “Pablo Escobar” – having had “no sleep for 24 hours”.

“I was born and bred in London and I love this country,” Alrubie told police in an interview commencing just minutes before midnight. “I was hoping to come in this morning to be able to watch the funeral like everyone else in the world and I wanted to do it with my mum and dad.”

At another point during the interview, he said: “[Joorabchian] owed [me] about £50,000 for a year … He was spotted having dinner with the Brazilian football team and one of my old associates, no longer, went up to him and Kia then … because he knew he owed the money he said: ‘OK I’m gonna pay, I’m gonna pay, I’m gonna pay’. But obviously Kia’s been dodging and avoiding paying for a while, so he ended up handing over his watch voluntarily.”

Alrubie denied to the court that he had made “any threat of violence – not with Kia or anyone else. I’m guilty of sending an angry email.”

The case continues.