Officials facing disciplinary hearings over Roman Abramovich’s Portuguese passport

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Officials facing disciplinary hearings over Roman Abramovich’s Portuguese passport

It comes days after a rabbi was arrested in connection to the decision to grant citizenship to the Russian billionaire

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich

Several employees of Portugal’s passport and identity service are facing disciplinary proceedings over an inquiry into how Roman Abramovich was granted citizenship.

The Institute of Registries and Notary probe began in January over claims from activists that the Russian billionaire had used a law designed for Inquisition descendants to gain a foothold in the EU.

A rabbi who issued a key document to assist Abramovich’s application was arrested last week.

Portugal had been offering naturalisation to the descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled in the 15th century, but has since suspended the process.

Questions have been raised over the decision for Abramovich because few Russians have a Sephardic background and the billionaire’s surname is a common name of Ashkenazi Jewish origin.

In addition to his Russian and Portuguese passports, Abramovich also holds Israeli citizenship.

The IRN would not confirm to the Portuguese news agency Lusa how many of its officials were facing a disciplinary process.

Portuguese prosecutors began their own investigation in January to examine whether corruption, forged documents and money laundering had become involved in the process.

Rabbi Daniel Litvak, of the Jewish community in Porto, was arrested last week in connection to his role issuing a document that allowed Abramovich to secure citizenship.

Reports said he was preparing to depart for Israel when he was detained.

Litvak’s community was one of two Jewish groups in Portugal — the other being based in Lisbon — that had the authority to vet applications under the 2013 law allowing citizenship for descendants of Sephardic Jews.

The law represented an attempt to atone for the Inquisition, a campaign of religious persecution in Spain and Portugal in the 16th century that forced tens of thousands of Jews to emigrate, hide their Jewish identity or denounce it altogether.

In January Rabbi Litvak denied Abramovich’s application had been assessed any differently than other applicants.

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