The Portuguese judiciary conducted several searches and arrested the rabbi of the Porto community as part of an investigation into the naturalization of Jewish descendants that benefited the Russian billionaire.
The investigation relates to incidents that “potentially constitute offenses of power abuse, active corruption, document forgery, money laundering” or even tax evasion, according to a press release from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Local media reported that Daniel Litvak, Porto’s chief rabbi, was arrested Thursday in Porto as he was about to return to Israel. On Saturday, he must appear before a judge to decide the judicial arrest procedures that will be applied to him.
The Portuguese justice had opened an investigation last January into the naturalization procedures of Roman Abramovich, owner of London football club Chelsea, who obtained citizenship in April 2021. The Russian billionaire had benefited from a law allowing all descendants of Sephardic Jews, who were persecuted and expelled at the turn of the century Fifteenth, to obtain Portuguese citizenship.
Under this law, Jewish communities in Porto or Lisbon must present a certificate proving Jewish origin. Officials of these communities are suspected of issuing false certificates of Jewish origin to many of the candidates, a press release notes to the Israeli community in Porto that refutes the accusations. It also states that this investigation is targeting other naturalization proceedings such as those of Patrick Drahy, owner and founder of communications and media group Altice.
Porto’s Jewish community claims to be the victim of “anonymous convictions” intended to “dispute the integrity of the naturalization procedures” and adds that it has already filed a complaint of “slanderous convictions”. Since this compensation law came into effect seven years ago, more than 137,000 citizenship applications have been submitted. Portugal has granted citizenship to more than 56,000 descendants of Sephardic Jews, according to figures cited by the Israeli community in Porto.
“Jews of at least 60 different nationalities” have already benefited from the law, Michael Rothwell, a board member of the Jewish community in Porto, told AFP, marking the law’s seventh anniversary. “We believe that Portugal is currently perhaps the safest place in Europe for Jews to live,” he said, lamenting the rise in manifestations of “general anti-Semitism” with the “greater emergence of the Jewish community.”