Rabbi Litvak on the left during a visit to the synagogue of Porto by President Marcelo

Abramovich nationality probe: Rabbi arrested

PJ move in as leader of Porto Jewish community prepares to fly to Israel

The leader of Porto’s Jewish Community Daniel Litvack has been arrested by PJ Judicial police investigating the process of conceding Portuguese nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Inquisition.

The granting of Portuguese nationality to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, at purported lightning speed, in April last year is just one of the cases included in the criminal probe, under the auspices of the regional MP/ DIAP (department of investigation and penal action).

According to reports, Rabbi Litvak has been the member of the Israeli Jewish Community of Porto responsible for the issuance of certificates of descendants of Sephardic Jews.

In other words, he signs off on paperwork that allowed people of many different nationalities to then claim Portuguese nationality under the terms of the Nationality Law for Sephardic Jews, which came into effect in March of 2015.

Jornal de Notícias stresses the urgency of the arrest.

The rabbi was apparently at Porto airport, preparing to take a flight which was to have stopped off at Munich before continuing on to Israel.

“There was not even a judge of criminal instruction present to apply eventual bail measures”, the paper explained.

“Daniel Litvak is suspected of eventual crimes of corruption and falsification of documents”, the paper continues.

The object of the PJ investigation “relates to suspicions about the use, in particular by the Jewish Community of Porto, of the legal regime approved to compensate Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Portugal more than 400 years ago during the Inquisition”.

“Genealogical study of applicants is an essential part of the process of obtaining nationality and was delegated by the Portuguese State to the Jewish communities of Lisbon and Porto“, JN continues.

“It was through the Jewish Community of Porto, led by Rabbi Daniel Litvak, that most of the applicants have been legalised”.

Estimates are that there have been “tens of thousands” of successful applicants, now all considered Portuguese citizens, with all the rights of free movement within Schengen Space that this implies.

It was this aspect that Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny highlighted from his jail cell in Penal Colony No 2 just before Christmas, insinuating that Abramovich’s Portuguese nationality had been purchased, rather than deserved through inheritance, and that “Portuguese officials carry suitcases of money” as a result of the transaction.

The allegations, in a series of tweets, were later vehemently refuted by foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva.

But this evening all media outlets are buzzing.

Says Diário de Notícias, Rabbi Litvak is not just cited for alleged corruption and falsification of documents. Allegations against him include: “criminal association, active corruption, money laundering, fiscal fraud and the trafficking of influences”.

A statement put out by the PJ adds that its national unit for the combat of corruption (UNCC) “proceeded with diverse domiciliary and non-domiciliary searches, including the office of a lawyer”, the sequence of which saw a “vast” quantity of “documentation and other elements of proof apprehended”, which will now have to be analysed.

Questions over possible irregularities in this process have been rumbling since Navalny’s incriminating tweets.

The Attorney General’s Office announced in January (19) that the granting of Portuguese nationality to Roman Abramovich was being made the subject of the Public Ministry investigation – and shortly afterwards the IRN (institute of notaries and registrars) said it too would be carrying out an inquiry.

Last month Público stressed that the Porto Jewish Community had made “various millions” of euros processing what came to 90% of the requests for Portuguese nationality from people throughout the world with Jewish heritage.

But as Jornal de Notícias concludes its report this evening: “Those responsible for the Jewish Community of Porto insisted, in the face of news of the criminal investigation, that they had nothing to fear”.

Rabbi Litvak will now face an initial round of judicial questioning “for the application of bail measures”, writes Diário de Notícias.

It should be mentioned that on January 21, Rabbi Litvak told reporters: “No-one will see one jew in our community associated with illicit acts or suitcases of money”.

Expresso stresses this evening that Michael Rothwell, a member of the administration of the Jewish Community of Porto, told Lusa that people from more than 60 countries have asked for certification to obtain Portuguese nationality under the law for Sephardic Jews. “Only Jews of genuine Sephardic descent with Portuguese origin can obtain the necessary certification”, he said, adding that the whole process is “very rigorous”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com