‘We Received Just 250 Euros From Abramovich’: Portuguese Jewish Community Pushes Back Against Allegations Over Russian Oligarch’s Citizenship
The Jewish community in the Portuguese city of Porto has said that it will no longer cooperate with the government on the naturalization of persons of Sephardic descent following the scandal that erupted over the weekend centered on Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
Last week, Portuguese police detained Rabbi Daniel Litvak over alleged improprieties involving the granting of Portuguese citizenship to Abramovich, banning him from leaving the country.
Under the provisions of a 2015 law granting Portuguese citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews persecuted in Portugal and Spain by the Inquisition in the 15th Century, applicants’ genealogies are vetted by experts at one of Portugal’s Jewish communities in Lisbon or Porto. The Porto community, where Litvak is the rabbi, was responsible for Abramovich’s process.
A statement issued by the community on Sunday declared that it had received an application fee for 250 euros from Abramovich and “nothing more.”
“No one will be able to refute this,” the statement emphasized.
In its initial response to the claims about Abramovich, Porto’s Jewish community denied any wrongdoing and said it was the target of a smear campaign, adding that Litvak oversaw the department that certifies Portuguese nationality on the basis of criteria that “have been accepted by successive governments.” More than 50,000 people have received Portuguese citizenship under the 2015 law, out of more than 80,000 applications.
In its statement on Sunday, the community confirmed that while Litvak “has not been judicially prevented from continuing the Sephardic certification processes” and is “a religious authority recognized by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel,” he was no longer “interested in collaborating with the state.”
The statement protested that the current police investigation into Abramovich’s naturalization was based on “unreliable anonymous complaints.” Members of the community’s board had been “searched for contacts with conservatories that they never had, for embezzlement that is impossible to carry out in this organization, and for being allegedly co-responsible for the certification activity of the chief rabbi,” the statement said.