Portuguese police search home of lawyers helping Jews get citizenship

A list of 20 rich Jews who received citizenship was displayed to the lawyers.

 A PORTUGUESE passport conveys all the benefits of a standard EU passport. (photo credit: KARIN ASIA)
A PORTUGUESE passport conveys all the benefits of a standard EU passport.
(photo credit: KARIN ASIA)

Portuguese police searched the home of the curator of the Jewish Museum in Porto and the offices of several Portuguese lawyers who work with the Jewish community in handling citizenship applications. 

This comes a few weeks after the Porto Jewish community submitted its response to the Portuguese parliament regarding the state’s intention to abolish the “Spanish Law,” and accused Portugal of antisemitism and of persecuting Jews.

The lawyers, according to the Jewish community, were given a list of 20 wealthy Jews who have received Portuguese citizenship since the law came into effect in 2015, including businessmen Lev Leviev, Roman Abramovich, God Nisanov, Andrei Rappoport, Sir Michael Kadoorie and others.

“I regret that the ‘Spanish Law’ has become an antisemitic weapon against wealthy Portuguese citizens, all of whom are, astoundingly, of Jewish origin,” Gabriel Senderowicz, president of the Porto Jewish community, said on Monday. “This is nothing more than deception by some powerful state officials in the country who seek to disguise their antisemitic attitudes on the grounds that these businessmen received their citizenship insincerely.”

“This is nothing more than deception by some powerful state officials in the country who seek to disguise their antisemitic attitudes on the grounds that these businessmen received their citizenship insincerely.”

Gabriel Senderowicz

Last Thursday, Porto police searched the home of Hugo Vaz, curator of the Jewish Museum in Porto, in search of “documents and a portable drive containing evidence against those powerful state officials,” said Senderowicz, adding that the Jewish community recently announced that “those officials who see fit to pursue representatives of the Jewish community in Porto will be documented as a new chapter in the history of antisemitism in Portugal and displayed in the museum."

"Shortly thereafter, the curator of the Jewish Museum in Porto received a five-hour police visit, during which he was asked to present ‘a secretive portable drive’ containing information about these officials and their actions.”

The 20 names

Senderowicz said he wondered whether the police is being used as a tool in the hands of those officials, and that several law firms working with the Porto Jewish community on the “Spanish Law” also received police visits in search of evidence against prominent Jews who had received their Portuguese citizenship in recent years.

“The lawyers were presented with a list of about 20 names of well-known and powerful Jews who are at the center of a criminal investigation on suspicion of having obtained their Portuguese citizenship illegally,” Senderowicz said.

Among the names presented to the lawyers is Patrick Drahi, the French-Israeli businessman who received his Portuguese citizenship from the Lisbon Jewish community in 2015, and has since managed to live in Portugal, conduct business there and even purchase the MEO communications group.

Recently, Portuguese columnists have begun to argue that elements in the country are trying to revoke Drahi’s citizenship, without which he could not own the media group.

“Patrick Drahi is undoubtedly entitled to Portuguese citizenship under the ‘Spanish Law,’ since his original surnames – Adrahi, Amou and Sicsu – and his family tree belongs to a Jewish dynasty of Moroccan origin that returned to live in Portugal after the Inquisition and was defined under the ‘Spanish Law’ as ‘expelled,’” said a spokesperson for the Porto Jewish community.

According to the Jewish community, other names on the police list include Sir Michael Kadoorie, “a British-Portuguese citizen whose family built the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto, [and] has a clear and significant family connection to Portugal,” according to a source in the community.

Another name being investigated is Jewish philanthropist Andrei Rappoport, born in Ukraine, who has Cypriot citizenship. “Rappoport received Portuguese citizenship in 2016, after it was proven that he and his family have roots in the city of Porto and the Portuguese authorities themselves have access to documentation related to his family,” said a source in the community.

Also on the list are the names of businessman Lev Leviev, an Israel citizen whose Judaism and Sephardi origins were approved by the Chief Rabbinate of Russia; and God Nisanov, born in Azerbaijan, who is former president of the World Jewish Congress.

Nisanov is a Jewish philanthropist and founder of the Cheder Menahem Jewish school in Moscow. Nisanov was authorized by the Porto Jewish Community in 2020 after being originally approved by the Chief Rabbinate of Russia.

“All the names mentioned, with the exception of Mr. Kadoorie, paid a fee of €250 legally, as is charged to anyone applying for Portuguese citizenship,” said the community spokesperson. “The community decided not to charge Mr. Kadoorie and offered him the certificate as a token of appreciation for his family’s contribution to the Jewish Community of Porto.”

Probably the first person on the list of Portugal authorities is Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who received citizenship in 2021 and based on the 2015 law that offers naturalization to descendants of Sephardi Jews who were expelled from the Iberian peninsula during the Inquisition.

“The state is sovereign to decide who to grant citizenship to and who not, but it’s just painful to see state representatives retreat hundreds of years, pursue powerful people in Portugal just because of their Jewishness, try to destroy the leaders of our community, and turn their arrows of hatred against the richest people in Portugal, who applied for citizenship lawfully and now find themselves persecuted though innocent of any crime,” said Senderowicz.

Media outlets in Portugal have quoted a source in the Judiciary Police and affirmed that searches were carried out on Thursday as part of the “process that investigates alleged illegalities by the Jewish community of Porto, of certificates of Portuguese nationality to Sephardi Jews.”