Alleged sex offender “wants to use Portuguese nationality to avoid
Shai Avital in happier times (image taken from Facebook)

Alleged sex offender “wants to use Portuguese nationality to avoid extradition”

Israeli Shai Avital is beneficiary of Sephardic Jew amnesty

“Indecent”: this is the adjective used by political commentator Ana Gomes for the lack of government action over “thousands of people who have fraudulently obtained” Portuguese nationality on the back of the 2014 Sephardic Jew amnesty.

Ms Gomes’ comments come in relation to the latest media ‘scandal’, involving modelling agent Shai Avital – a 44-year-old Israeli accused of sex crimes against 26 Israeli women, some of whom were minors at the time of the alleged offences.

Mr Avital is one of thousands of Israelis who have obtained Portuguese nationality as a result of the Sephardic Jew amnesty.

Indeed, he is one of the tens of thousands of people who obtained his citizenship through the Porto Jewish Community – the community that has now suspended its adherence to the programme due to ongoing criminal investigations kicked-started by the allegations of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine.

According to Ana Gomes, Shai Avital is one of large numbers who are potentially using Portuguese nationality “to evade justice for crimes committed in Israel and other countries”.

The stink of what was once considered a commendable scheme just does not stop. Every few weeks, the press is assailed with yet another ‘Russian oligarch’ or high profile businessman who appears to have taken advantage of something brought in only to ‘right terrible wrongs of the past’.

Shai Avital’s alleged crimes “span the past two decades”, says the Times of Israel, which gives some of the background to this case.

The agent is refuting “all allegations made against him, and is convinced he will eventually be exonerated in court”, says Dutch online NL times which has been in contact with Shai Avital’s lawyers.

Here, Público has covered the story as an exclusive – referring to the intended use of Portuguese nationality to hamper extradition to Israel.

The paper quotes Avital as saying: “If I wanted to escape, I would hide in Portugal”.

Clearly, Ana Gomes believes the Portuguese government should be removing nationality from anyone who doesn’t qualify for it. But for this to happen, investigations would be required into every single beneficiary of the scheme since it began – something criminal investigators are unlikely to undertake. Indeed, their case against representatives of the Porto Jewish Community has still to reach a courtroom

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com