Porto Jewish Community presents: How Portugal’s socialist government stitched together the ‘Abramovich Scandal’

Porto Jewish Community presents: How Portugal’s socialist government stitched together the ‘Abramovich Scandal’

The most relevant politicians, journalists and men of culture in the Jewish world received a folder from the Oporto Jewish Community on the so-called "Abramovich case". Thick folder of evidence that the community has gathered and presented includes correspondence between ministries and the community in which government representatives welcome, prior to confirming Roman Abramovich’s citizenship, offers from the community to help the state bring wealthy Jewish investors to invest in Portugal.

Evidence also shows that Abramovich’s citizenship was legally granted because of his Lithuanian family of Sephardic origin– the surnames in his dynasty appear in Portuguese state records from the time of the Inquisition (Leiva, Rosa, Leão and others). The applicant's family was Lithuanian and were forcibly taken to Siberia in 1941 and lost what they had, including ships, a hotel, restaurants, great properties and much more.

The famous case linked the community’s name to corruption without presenting any evidence, and eventually led to the de facto annulment of the “Sephardi Law”, that allowed Israeli Jews of Portuguese origin to apply for Portuguese citizenship.

The community is declaring that the scandal, which erupted over the granting of Portuguese citizenship to Abramovich, was an act of fraud and forgery by some members of the Socialist Party government and partners from the press who chose to use the negative image of the Russian multimillionaire linked to Putin while the latter’s tanks were concentrated on the borders with Ukraine. The forder notes that "the Portuguese socialist government which ran the country during this period cannot be confused with political power in Portugal, much less with the State and even less with the people."

The community’s leadership argues that the law’s repeal attempted and succeeded in slowing the flow of Israeli Jews and wealthy Jews entering the country, and supported the persecution of Europe’s fastest growing Jewish community in terms of numbers, culture, religion and philanthropy.

On December 18, 2021, five days before the meeting of the Council of Ministers that had already declared its intention to abolish this law in practice, as it did, a newspaper enthusiastically reported that Abramovich's certification was immersed in entries on Wikipedia, a Jewish Freemasonry and that he had transferred previous donations and money to the community’s Holocaust Museum. The community, for its part, presents in the evidentiary file the only payment ever made to it by Abramovich, in the amount of €250 – a fixed processing fee paid by anyone who contacts the community to clarify and confirm his Jewishness during the citizenship application process.

Nearly two years have passed since that day in March 2022 when more than a dozen police officers invaded the community’s synagogue, an impressive institution, in an aggressive and humiliating search for incriminating documents. The police forgot to take with it the file on Roman Abramovich, left behind in a table, for they were more focused on trying to find documents, which did not exist, regarding Patrick Drahi, the owner of Altice, who had in fact been certified and rightly so by the Lisbon community and was then the major target of “Operation Open Door”.

The police operation included collecting millions of documents and correspondences over the years, but ended with a feeble response when the Lisbon Court of Appeals ruled in September 2022 that the police and the State Prosecutor’s Office acted “based on nothing”. This after the community’s rabbi was arrested on his way back to Israel after a humiliating search of his belongings and held for 36 hours in administrative detention, during which he was denied access to kosher food. The homes of other community leaders were also searched, including a respected 70-year-old economist and the granddaughter of the founder of the city’s Jewish community, which was destroyed by the fascist regime of 1937 and reestablished in the early 2010s.

But what had been done had been done, and the move led to tens of thousands of hate messages against the community, as well as more than a million mentions on the Internet linking the community to the word “corruption.”

In addition, the police operation isolated and damaged the reputation of the Porto Jewish community, one of Europe’s most respected Jewish organizations that in one day became toxic and was left behind.

All the efforts invested by the Jewish community in the decade preceding the affair – bringing new life and prayers to the large local synagogue, creating another, establishing two museums that have hosted more than 100,000 youths since its inception, producing historical films and more – were forgotten when a group of politicians, journalists, and dubious figures launched a smear campaign against the community and its activities, calling to everything a "business", word that remained in the headlines for long months.

According to the community, the persecution and propaganda against them were so aggressive that no political party, media institution or organization, from the left or right, dared to testify on behalf of the community, leaving them to wallow in baseless suspicions leveled against them one fine day. “Ironically, bags full of cash only appeared in the European Parliament (“Qatargate”) and at the official residence of the Prime Minister of Portugal,” the community notes in its folder.

The folder sent by the community to the Jewish world to prove its claims also contains all the documents and proof regarding the manner in which the government granted citizenship to Abramovich for reasons of national interest.

Thus, the attached documents indicate that on August 30, 2020, the community notified the prime minister’s office of the possibility that the applicant will invest in Portugal. On September 16, 2020, the community held an official meeting with the Minister of Economy. On October 19, the community wrote to the Minister of Justice. On February 3, 2021, the community wrote to a member of the government who works in the field of law and asked for a “declaration of urgency for reasons of national interest,” in particular “economic rehabilitation.”

On April 30, 2021, after the urgent request was accepted, the government granted Portuguese citizenship to Roman Abramovich through a voluntary act. The government could decide either way regarding granting citizenship to a candidate. It had the authority and discretion to grant citizenship and it did. And even urgently.

Later, in times of war, to change the law without anyone protesting, the Portuguese government sent newspapers what the community calls “false information” and defamatory anonymous letters to the prosecutor’s office, with the aim of eliminating the “Sephardi Law” and also eliminating the Porto Jewish community that had gained a positive reputation and momentum for its work in the previous decade.

The folder shows the certification of Russian Jews of Sephardic origin represented about 0,1% of the certifications and all were approved by the local Chabad. "But the war is war. And another war has laid bare the nature of the remaining 99,9% of the certificates. The names and connections to Portugal of 25 victims of “7 October 2023” (victims who could only have been chosen by Hamas) regarded families of traditional Sephardic communities. These families were lucky that their Sephardic certificates were not “assessed” by the ignorant people in Lisbon, pushed forward by anonymous denunciations wisely compiled by the government and sent on to the suitable channels. The antisemites would have reduced those documents to “documents of parents and grandparents”, for they have no idea what a Jew is, knows no Jewish families, despises recognised orthodox Rabbinates, does not even know how worldwide synagogues prove its members’ Jewish belonging in the light of a tradition that is millenary and dates back to Mount Sinai. A disaster."

Last month, Porto's Jewish community filed two lawsuits, one to the European Court and the other to the Lisbon court, seeking €10 million ($10.9 million) in compensation from the state for “political aggression.”

The Oporto Jewish Community does not intend to attack anyone, but Gabriel Senderowicz, President of the organization, assures that "if democratic legality is not restored, with the arrest of the criminal organization that conceived everything, we will regrettably be forced to display documents about actors, connections and favors."

In addition, the community keeps more material on the specific case of Roman Abramovich. According to Senderowicz, "whoever conceived the great scandal now depends on its outcome, so they are willing to deny everything until the end, even if it is the very name of the applicant. So it is fair that we have a surprise in store for them."