Portugal will change the law under which Roman Abramovich obtained citizenship | Portugal

Portuguese government to strengthen law granting citizenship to descendants of Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula 500 years ago, as concerns grow over controversial decision to award citizenship to Roman Abramovich because of his Sephardic Jewish heritage apparent.

The Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea FC, who now faces British and EU sanctions over his links to Vladimir Putin, was granted Portuguese citizenship last year under a 2015 law seeking to redress mass banishments at the end of the 15th century. .

On Wednesday, however, the Portuguese government said it had decided to amend the law on nationality by descent to prevent the legislation from being “manipulated”.

The move comes as the Portuguese prosecutor’s office investigates how Abramovich obtained his citizenship, and days after the rabbi who certified the oligarch’s Sephardic descent was arrested in the city of Porto.

Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said a new decree would introduce “a requirement for [applicants to demonstrate an] effective connection with Portugal”.

According to Portuguese newspaper Público, the proposed changes to the law could require applicants to provide proof of a material connection to the country, such as proof of visits or inherited property in that country.

Last December, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny denounced Portugal’s decision to grant citizenship to Abramovich, describing him as “Putin’s closest oligarch and one of his portfolios”. “He finally managed to find a country where you can give bribes and make semi-official and official payments to end up in the EU and NATO – on the other side of the front line of Putin, so to speak.”

Santos Silva called Navalny’s criticism ‘deeply unfair’ and said that “the idea of ​​Portuguese civil servants carrying suitcases of money is insulting”.

Daniel Litvak, the chief rabbi of the Porto Jewish community, was arrested last week and is being investigated for alleged offenses of “trading in influence, active bribery, falsification of documents, money laundering , qualified tax evasion and association of criminals”.

Meanwhile, a separate investigation into the use of citizenship law has already led to the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against employees of the Portuguese Institute of Registries and Notaries, which provides citizenship services and passport.

In a statement, the Jewish community of Porto said: “As soon as Jewish communities begin to impose themselves on European territory, the influential anti-Semites in society will try to destroy Jewish life little by little, synagogue by synagogue, organization by organization, using the same methods formerly employed in the Soviet Union.

He described the allegations against Litvak as “incredible anonymous whistleblowers” and said that although he received the sum of €250 from Abramovich, he had “worked transparently and maintained rigorous and honest standards” during assessment of Sephardic ancestry.

The community also said it was no longer interested in collaborating with the Portuguese state to certify people as Sephardi Jews. He declined to say whether the oligarch was a direct or indirect benefactor to the community, whether he remained confident about Abramovich’s certification, or whether he was reviewing the decision.

According to a document on its website“certificates may be revoked if it comes to the knowledge of the committee that false documents have been used in the certification process”.

The community’s website says the “overwhelming majority” of certificates issued have been granted to descendants of traditional Sephardic families who have lived for centuries in the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa. To date, nearly 57,000 people have obtained Portuguese nationality under the 2015 law.

A similar but stricter Spanish law, introduced a year earlier, requires proof of ties to Spain as well as a language and culture test. It attracted more than 132,000 applications before the October 1, 2019 deadline.

The Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities, which certifies applications, said it has received petitions from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, the United States, Israel, Panama, Ecuador, from Brazil, Turkey, France, United Kingdom, Serbia and Montenegro, Peru, Chile, Morocco and Afghanistan.

David C. Barham