Premier League board disqualifies Chelsea owner Abramovich as club director

The leader of the Jewish community in Portugal's northern city of Porto responsible for issuing a document that allowed  Abramovich to get Portuguese citizenship last year has been detained.

Roman Abramovich (photo credit: CHELSEA FC/COURTESY)
Roman Abramovich
(photo credit: CHELSEA FC/COURTESY)

The Premier League board has disqualified Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich as a director at the English top-flight club, the league said in a statement on Saturday.

The move comes after the billionaire Russian had sanctions imposed on him by the British government after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Read full story

"Following the imposition of sanctions by the UK Government, the Premier League Board has disqualified Roman Abramovich as a Director of Chelsea Football Club," the Premier League said.

"The Board's decision does not impact on the club's ability to train and play its fixtures, as set out under the terms of a license issued by the Government which expires on 31 May 2022."

Abramovich, who had been under scrutiny following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, announced he was selling the London club last week but that sale is now on hold with Chelsea operating under a special government license.

Chelsea can continue playing games and pay their players and staff but cannot transfer players in or out as the government tries to prevent Abramovich from benefiting in any way.

 Flag of Portugal (illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Flag of Portugal (illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 for a reported 140 million pounds ($182.5 million) and his investment resulted in the most successful era in their history as they won five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League twice.

The entry on the British sanctions list described Abramovich as "a prominent Russian businessman and pro-Kremlin oligarch" who had enjoyed "a close relationship for decades" with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Abramovich has denied having such ties.

The leader of the Jewish community in Portugal's northern city of Porto responsible for issuing a document that allowed  Abramovich to get Portuguese citizenship last year has been detained, newspaper Publico said on Friday.

Officers from the criminal investigation agency PJ detained Rabbi Daniel Litvak as part of an ongoing inquiry by public prosecutors into the granting of citizenship to Chelsea soccer club owner Abramovich, Publico said.

Porto's Jewish community has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement, PJ said a suspect had been detained on Thursday but did not name the rabbi, adding the suspect would appear before a judge.

It said its officers raided homes, a lawyer's office and others spaces on Friday as part of the investigation into various crimes, such as money laundering, corruption and falsification of documents. Evidence was collected and would be analyzed, it added.

Abramovich was granted citizenship in April 2021 based on a law offering naturalization to descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian peninsula during the medieval Inquisition. 

There is little known history of Sephardic Jews in Russia, although Abramovich is a common surname of Ashkenazi Jewish origin.

Applicants' genealogies are vetted by experts at one of Portugal's Jewish centers in Lisbon or Porto. The Porto center, where Litvak is the rabbi, was responsible for Abramovich's process.

Public prosecutors opened the inquiry in January. Read full story. On Thursday, a Portuguese government source told Reuters Abramovich's citizenship could be stripped depending on the outcome of the inquiry. 

Litvak was preparing to travel to Israel when he was detained, Publico said.

The Porto Jewish center and the public prosecutors did not immediately reply to Reuters requests for comment.