Roman Abramovich becomes Portuguese citizen after research reveals family expulsion

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Roman Abramovich becomes Portuguese citizen after research reveals family expulsion

Following research by rabbis and community leaders, Chelsea owner benefits from new law which enables descendants of those expelled in 15th century to take up citizenship

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

The billionaire philanthropist and owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich, has become a Portuguese citizen under that country’s new regulations relating to descendants of Portuguese Jews.

Abramovich’s citizenship — his third nationality, after Russian and Israeli — is the result of long years of research into his family history. He was brought up by relatives after both his parents died by the time he was four. Sources close to him have told Jewish News that the research revealed that parts of his family were expelled from Portugal in 1496, and — along with many other Portuguese Jews of the time — ended up in Hamburg.

Eventually the family arrived in Lithuania, which became part of the Former Soviet Union. The businessman was born in Saratov, and grew up in the northern part of the FSU.

After research among rabbis and community leaders in several countries, Abramovich established the Portuguese link to his family history. Since 2015, Portugal has been granting citizenship to descendants of those Sephardi Jews who were expelled at the end of the 15th century.

Abramovich took out Israeli nationality in 2018. He has never had British citizenship, but did have an “investor visa”, allowing him to conduct business in the UK. He withdrew his application for renewal of this visa after becoming an Israeli citizen, because that passport allows him entry to Britain without a visa.

Responding to questions about his Portuguese citizenship — which became official in April but has only just been formally announced — a source close to Abramovich said: “For many Jewish individuals, generations of their family history consists of tragic fates — due to persecution. Gaining knowledge and understanding of one’s history and reconnecting to one’s roots, is therefore important for many Jews.

“In the case of Mr Abramovich, this has been done not only through family research, but also through his philanthropic activities, which honour the Jewish legacy in many countries, not least Portugal and Lithuania, where he also has family roots”. He is understood to have been a benefactor of the Jewish community in Porto, which is said to consist of around 700 Jews from more than 30 countries.”

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