Roman Abramovich - Photo: EPA/ANDY RAIN

Abramovich Portuguese nationality controversy: new probe opens

Suspicion that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich may have received preferential treatment in his bid for Portuguese nationality on the back of supposed Sephardic Jew heritage refuses to go away.

Spokespeople for Mr Abramovich, as well as for the Porto Jewish Community, have insisted the process was conducted in perfect accordance with all rules and transparency.

But SIC reports there remain “suspicions of violation of duty” in the concession of Mr Abramovich’s Portuguese nationality. Indeed, inquiries begun in January – involving the Institute of Registries and Notaries as well as the Public Ministry (click here) – appear to have found them: the probes have developed into what SIC describes now as a “disciplinary case”.

“It is unknown for the time being how many employees, and from which categories, are being investigated”, says the station. But the situation is not looking at all ‘healthy’ in that it saw foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva – a man tipped to be leader of parliament shortly, and possibly even go on to become a contender for the Portuguese presidency – categorically deny any underhand dealing, in a press conference just before the New Year (click here).

The whole question of whether or not Mr Abramovich even qualifies for Portuguese nationality (ie can he truly prove Sephardic Jew descendancy – particularly descendancy from Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal 500 years ago which would qualify him for Portuguese nationality) followed a series of damning tweets in December from jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in which Navalny suggested Mr Abramovich had “finally managed to find a country where you can give bribes and make some semi-official and official payments to end up in the EU and NATO – on the other side of Putin’s front line, so to speak”.

In a thread describing Mr Abramovich as Vladimir Putin’s “trusted oligarch”, Navalny alluded to the West giving citizenship away ostensibly in return for money.

He went to the lengths of claiming “Portuguese officials carry suitcases of money” as a result of the situation – which is where Augusto Santos Silva seemed to draw the line.

In comments to journalists just before the New Year, Portugal’s head of diplomacy said: “The idea that Portuguese public sector employees carry suitcases of money is insulting”, adding “and is not true. And as we all know when criticism has no basis, it also has no pertinence”. That last sentence may come back to haunt him.

According to SIC, the criticism does indeed appear to have basis, and therefore could also have pertinence. 

This is all coming home to roost at the worst possible of times.

Mr Abramovich is understood to be taking part in initiatives to try and broker peace in the Ukraine conflict, supposedly in a meeting going ahead on the Ukraine-Belarus border this afternoon.

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