Portugal launches second probe into decision to grant Abramovich a passport

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Portugal launches second probe into decision to grant Abramovich a passport

Lisbon criminal office launches inquiry following claims from activists and politicians that the oligarch may not have had Sephardic roots

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich

Prosecutors in Portugal have launched a second investigation into the decision last year to grant citizenship to Roman Abramovich.

The billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club became a national of the country in April 2021 based on a law offering naturalisation to the descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled in the 15th century.

An internal inquiry into that move was launched last week by the Institute of Registries and Notary, which provides citizenship services, but now prosecutors have launched their own probe.

Officials confirmed it would be handled by a criminal investigation department in Lisbon, but did not explain what had triggered the inquiry, Reuters reported.

A number of activists and politicians in Portugal have criticised the decision to grant Russian-born Abramovich a passport because Russia had little known history of Sephardic Jewish inhabitants, whereas his surname is widely known to have Ashkenazi origins.

Some campaigners believe Portugal’s citizenship law is being used to allow oligarchs to gain a foothold in the European Union.

Abramovich did not immediately respond to the latest investigation.

Last week his representative said he would “welcome any review as it will only demonstrate the citizenship was obtained in accordance with the rules”.

Thousands of people have been granted Portuguese citizenship since a law passed in 2015 offered the opportunity to the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled during the Inquisition in the 15th century.

A similar citizenship offer by Spain expired in 2019.

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