Rabbi giving interview recently to RTP

Rabbi in Abramovich probe hits back

Legal defence says rabbi’s arrest was “illegal”; wants bail conditions lifted

Rabbi Daniel Litvak has gone on the attack. Months after his arrest at Porto airport on the back of the ‘Abramovich probe’, his defence team is arguing that public prosecutors had no right to detain him – even less to insist that he cannot leave the country.

An appeal has been lodged at Lisbon’s Court of Appeal, and judges will now have to decide whether the rabbi’s bail conditions remain as they are (they involve reporting to local police three times a week/ surrendering passports and not contacting the other defendant in this case, lawyer and nephew of former Socialist health minister Maria de Belém João Francisco de Almeida Garrett), or whether he receives more freedom.

Explain reports, the Public Ministry has already stressed that bail conditions are “necessary, adequate and proportionate” – thus prosecutors’ hope is that the court rejects the appeal. 

According to Jornal de Notícias, prosecutors still believe Rabbi Litvak represents a flight risk, and that he could (given more freedom) ‘continue with (alleged) criminal activity and upset the inquiry’.

The rabbi’s legal team however refutes the notion that “there are strong indications of the practice of crimes, including falsification of documents, trafficking of influences, active corruption, money laundering and criminal association”.

They present legal arguments showing the rabbi should never have been arrested (evidence against him did not merit preventive custody, they maintain); they cite ‘alleged violation of the constitutional right of religion’ in the period in which the rabbi was detained and unable to carry out the “three daily prayer sessions foreseen by the Jewish religion” – and they are seeking to ‘invalidate’ the questioning that took place of their client, on the basis that no interpreter was present and, as an Israeli/ Argentine national, the rabbi did not ‘dominate (spoken) Portuguese’.

Insisting on the various unconstitutional limitations of the right of defence, the rabbi’s lawyers are also seeking to minimise responsibility in the naturalisation process of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, on the basis that only one document was prepared by the Porto Jewish Community, of which Rabbi Litvak is the spiritual leader – but that this one document “was not written or signed by the accused”.

The bottom line nonetheless is that this inquiry involves a lot more than the Portuguese nationality awarded to Roman Abramovich. Other oligarchs, and indeed business leaders, have seen their names associated with suspicions over the  citizenship process – and then there was the series of damning tweets from jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny which referred to “suitcases of money” being carried by Portuguese officials on the back of this process

No smoke without fire; muds sticks and other well worn sayings describe the crossfire in which defendants in this case find themselves, while it has already been established that the Porto Jewish Community has made a great deal of money from the Sephardic Jew amnesty (much more, for instance, than counterparts in Lisbon) and that Roman Abramovich would not qualify for Portuguese citizenship now that new rules have been introduced.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com