Portugal opens inquiry into Roman Abramovich’s citizenship

The Portuguese government said on Thursday that the Portuguese authority responsible for citizenship affairs has opened an internal investigation into the granting of citizenship to billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea Football Club, Trend reported, referring to Reuters.

Russian-born businessman Abramovich obtained Portuguese citizenship in April 2021 based on a law granting citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the medieval Inquisition.

There is no known history of Sephardic Jews in Russia, although Abramovich is a common surname of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

The investigation by the Registry and Notary Institute (IRN), which provides citizenship and passport services, comes amid criticism from some activists, commentators and politicians who say the law should be reviewed because they believe it is being used by oligarchs to gain a foothold. in the European Union.

“Everything indicates that behind the goodwill law, the passport mafia has been created,” Joao Batalha, an anti-corruption activist and founder of the Portuguese branch of Transparency International, wrote on Twitter.

The Justice Ministry said the investigation – which was first reported by radio station Renascenca and later confirmed by Reuters – was a standard procedure.

“It is a normal procedure that is adopted whenever there are situations or news that indicate any possible violation of the implemented procedure,” she said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“The IRN only intends to determine, without any doubt, whether … there has been any kind of wrongdoing,” she added.

A spokeswoman for Abramovich said he and his crew “welcome any review as it will only prove that citizenship was obtained according to the rules”.

Thousands of Israeli Jews have been granted Portuguese citizenship since the law was passed in 2015. The number of such applications has risen in Portugal since a similar offer of citizenship for Sephardic Jews from Spain ended in 2019.

The genealogical chains of the applicants are checked by experts in one of the Jewish centers in Portugal, Lisbon or Porto. The Porto Center was responsible for Operation Abramovich.

Abramovich, who made his fortune from the Russian oil industry, has donated money to projects honoring the legacy of Portuguese Sephardic Jews in the German city of Hamburg, according to the information portal Mazal of the Porto Jewish community.

In a blog post, the Porto Center said Abramovich’s operation bore the seal of approval from some of the “reputable international Jewish institutions.”

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