Portugal investigates granting citizenship to Roman Abramovich

Portuguese authorities have launched an internal investigation into the decision to grant citizenship to Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, under a law allowing descendants of Jews expelled in the 15th century to obtain Portuguese passports.

Roman Abramovich, owner of famous English football club Chelsea, reportedly acquired Portuguese citizenship in December. His claims of Sephardic ancestry and the 2015 law that allowed him to obtain a passport have since come under scrutiny, with critics saying the loopholes may have allowed the wealthy secure access to government.European Union ( EU).

On Thursday, the Portuguese Justice Ministry confirmed the investigation to Reuters news agency.

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“This is a general procedure to be followed whenever there are situations or news reports that mention possible irregularities in the process,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The sole intention of the IRN is to establish, beyond any doubt, whether (…) any irregularities have taken place,” he said, using the agency’s initials. In charge of nationality and passport issues.

The statement did not specify the purpose of the investigation.

A spokesman for Abramovich told the news agency that the billionaire and his team “welcome any review.”

“It will only demonstrate that citizenship was obtained as per the rules,” she said of the investigation.

To obtain Portuguese citizenship, Abramovich must prove that he is a descendant of Jews whose families fled the Iberian Peninsula due to campaigns of anti-Semitic persecution in Portugal and Spain.

Members of the Porto Jewish community at the Kaduri Mekor Haim Synagogue on September 2, 2016. (AFP/Miguel Riopa)

Last month, Porto’s Jewish community confirmed that it had taken care of Abramovich’s citizenship application. The Porto group said Lisbon’s Jewish community has had data on Abramovich’s ancestry for years. It also rejected claims that Abramovich’s naturalization is in any way different from the 2015 law and its procedures.

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According to community news portal Mazal, Abramovich donated money to a project to honor Portuguese Jews in the German city of Hamburg.

In a blog post cited by Reuters news agency, the group said that some of the “most prestigious international Jewish institutions” have signed up to its request.

A Portuguese passport allows Abramovich to live and work anywhere in the European Union. This potentially makes it easier for them to do business in the UK.

In 2018, Abramovich received an Israeli identity card under the Law of Return, which allows Jews to automatically become citizens of Israel.

He was granted Israeli citizenship after being unable to extend his UK visa amid a diplomatic dispute between London and Moscow.

In this May 16, 2021 file photo, Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich attends the UEFA Women’s Champions League final against FC Barcelona in Gothenburg, Sweden. (AP Photo/Martin Meisner, FILE)

Abramovich immediately became the richest Israeli and is now also the richest Portuguese. According to ForbesHis wealth is estimated at 12.5 billion euros.

As a new citizen, Abramovich is exempted from paying taxes in Israel on income earned abroad for 10 years, and is not required to declare the sources of that income for the same period.

When Abramovich’s British visa expired, new, more stringent rules required him to explain the source of his funding in order to obtain a new one.

There is no evidence that Abramovich did anything wrong, but Britain has been investigating Russian businessmen and diplomats more closely in recent years.

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JTA contributed to this article.

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