Portugal Jewish community to end work with state in certifying citizenship

The announcement comes in light of the investigation into Roman Abramovich's Portugese citizenship

 Congregants pray at the synagogue of Porto, Portugal, Jan. 2, 2020.  (photo credit: JEWISH COMMUNITY OF PORTO)
Congregants pray at the synagogue of Porto, Portugal, Jan. 2, 2020.
(photo credit: JEWISH COMMUNITY OF PORTO)

The religious leader of the Jewish community in Porto, Daniel Litvak, is banned from leaving Portugal and is subject to periodic presentations to the authorities, after being detained on suspicion of corruption. The Portuguese media reported last Friday that the leader of the Jewish Community of Porto was arrested by the National Anti-Corruption Unit of the Polícia Judiciária (investigation police).

As a result of the investigation, several processes for Sephardic Jews to obtain Portuguese citizenship will be endangered, with an emphasis on the Roman Abramovich case. Abramovich, who is regarded as one of the closest men to Vladimir Putin, has suffered several sanctions in the West, especially in the United Kingdom, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In Portugal, there is public pressure to investigate Abramovich's nationality, which is seen as having been obtained too quickly. The Minister of Justice reported that “EU sanctions do not include the administrative loss of nationality, nor could they do so for basic reasons of respect for the rule of law”. However, he stressed that “the conditions for granting that nationality are under judicial investigation that is ongoing."

In a statement, Polícia Judiciária confirmed the operation in the early evening of Friday. At stake are “crimes of influence peddling, active corruption, forgery of documents, money laundering, qualified tax fraud and criminal association”.

The Oporto Jewish community sent out a statement on the matter, saying: "The Board of CIP/CJP (Porto and Lisbon Jewish communities) has decided that it is no longer interested in collaborating with the State in certifying Sephardic Jews and recalls the proposal it made in 2013/2014 to the PSD/CDS government to the effect that an international commission should be set up.

 Roman Abramovich watches his team during their English Premier League soccer match against Arsenal (credit: REUTERS/EDDIE KEOGH) Roman Abramovich watches his team during their English Premier League soccer match against Arsenal (credit: REUTERS/EDDIE KEOGH)

"CIP/CJP will continue to evolve in all its statutory aims, following the trajectory that in the space of a single decade has made it one of the most relevant Jewish organizations in the world in respect of religion, culture, philanthropy, and fighting antisemitism."

Adv. Itay Mor, president of the Zionist movement Over the Rainbow Portugal said that he is “in favor of total transparency and in favor of any investigation that removes suspicion from the Jewish communities in Portugal, but I cannot fail to remember the important role that the growing community has in the country.

"Since 2015, thousands of descendants of Sephardic Jews have arrived in Portugal, who arrived not only to join its historical and cultural legacy but also to make Portugal the seat of relevant businesses in the most diverse areas. The cooperation with the local communities is total and the bridge between Israel (and not only) Portugal has been made of happy stories." 

From 2015, when the amendments to the Nationality Law came into force, until the end of last year, CIP and CIL certified 137,000 requests for nationality. Of the total requests, close to 90% were conducted by the Jewish community in Porto (76,500).