By David Israel JEWISH PRESS – March 12, 2022 Police in the coastal city of Porto in northwest Portugal on Friday arrested the leader of the local Jewish community, Rabbi Daniel Litvak, on suspicion of helping the Russian-Israeli tycoon and owner of the Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich obtain Portuguese citizenship illegally. On Thursday, a Portuguese government source told Reuters that Abramovich could be stripped of his citizenship.
Portuguese prosecutors said late Friday night that Rabbi Litvak had been detained as part of an investigation into cases of “influence peddling, active corruption, falsification of documents, money laundering, or even tax evasion.” Last January, the same prosecutors announced they were investigating how Abramovich had received his Portuguese citizenship back in April 2021.Porto’s Jewish community issued a statement saying it is was the target of a “smear campaign,” insisting that Rabbi Litvak oversaw the department that certifies Portuguese nationality based on criteria that “have been accepted by successive governments.”
Abramovich appealed for citizenship based on a 2013 law that allows descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled in the late 1490s to obtain Portuguese nationality. The Jewish Community of Porto issued Abramovich a certificate confirming his Sephardic descent.
Meanwhile, following the imposition of sanctions by the UK Government, the Premier League Board has disqualified Roman Abramovich as a Director of Chelsea Football Club. Chelsea is currently in third place in the top English league, behind Liverpool and Manchester City.
Tens of thousands of applicants have attained Portuguese citizenship under the law after the government authorized two Jewish communities to rule on their qualification: in Lisbon and in Porto. The Jewish Press noted in 2019 that two-thirds of the approximately 15,000 Sephardic Jews living in Istanbul had chosen to become Portuguese citizens because that country, unlike Spain, does not require language exams for descendants of Sephardic Jews to be naturalized there. In comparison, fewer than 400 Jews obtained Spanish citizenship during the first two years of Spain’s equivalent law’s existence. Facing a public relations debacle, the Spanish government subsequently approved a decree exempting applicants over the age of 70 from the Spanish language requirements.
The Polícia Judiciária (Judicial Police or PJ) officers raided homes, a lawyer’s office, and other locations on Friday as part of an investigation of suspicions of money laundering, corruption, and document falsifications. Rabbi Litvak was preparing for a trip to Israel when he was arrested.