Roman Abramovich
Roman AbramovichReuters

The Portuguese government agency that oversees matters of nationality has launched an inquiry into the citizenship that was given to Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich under a 2015 law that repatriates descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the Iberian peninsula during the Inquisition.

The internal investigation by Institute of Registries and Notary (IRN) into the claim of Sephardic lineage by Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea Football Club, is taking place as politicians and commentators charge that the law is being used by Abramovich and others with wealth to gain EU citizenship, Reuters reported.

In December, Portuguese radio station TSF aired and published a statement by investigative journalist Daniel Oliveira, in which he accused the Jewish Community of Porto of turning “a just law into a ‘golden visa’ by hitching a ride on our crimes from the past.”

Portuguese anti-corruption activist Joao Batalha accused Abramovich of being part of a “passport mafia.”

“Everything indicates that behind a well-intentioned law a passport mafia has been set up,” said Batalha, the founder of the Portuguese office of Transparency Internacional, on Twitter.

While many of Russia’s Jews are Ashkenazi, and Abramovich is a common Ashkenazi surname, unconfirmed media reports have said that members of Abramovich’s family that live in Belarus have Sephardic ancestry. After fleeing the Iberian peninsula, some Sephardi Jews started communities in Eastern Europe.

Abramovich’s application for Portuguese citizenship was approved in April 2021.

The Justice Ministry told Portuguese media that the citizenship inquiry was standard procedure when “any possible irregularity” is discovered.

Abramovich “welcome[s] any review as it will only demonstrate the citizenship was obtained in accordance with the rules,” said a spokesperson for Abramovich.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)