Portuguese prosecutors have detained a rabbi over the naturalization of a number of Jewish people, including Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea football club who was put on the United Kingdom’s sanctions list in response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich has been disqualified as a director of Chelsea by the Premier League board due to his designation.
Portuguese prosecutors said late on March 11 that the leader of the Jewish community in the northern city of Porto, Daniel Litvak, was detained as part of their investigation into possible cases of "influence peddling, active corruption, falsification of documents, money laundering, or even tax evasion."
Media reports said Litvak was arrested a day earlier while he was getting ready to leave the country for Israel. He is scheduled to appear before a judge on March 12, who will decide what measures to impose on him.
Portuguese prosecutors had said in January that they were investigating the naturalization of Abramovich, who was granted Portuguese citizenship in April 2021.
The decision to naturalize Abramovich was based on a certificate confirming that he is a descendant of Sephardic Jews issued by Porto's Jewish community.
The owner of European champions Chelsea, who sit third in the English Premier League, benefited from a law passed by Portugal in 2013 allowing all descendants of Sephardic Jews, persecuted and expelled at the end of the 15th century, to obtain Portuguese nationality.
A certificate attesting to his descent was issued by the Jewish Community of the city of Porto in northern Portugal.
"Following the imposition of sanctions by the U.K. government, the Premier League board disqualified Roman Abramovih as a director of Chelsea Football Club," a Premier League statement said on March 12.
Western nations have imposed crippling sanctions and other measures on Moscow over its war on Ukraine. A number of Russian officials and billionaires with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin have been blacklisted as part of the measures.
The 55-year-old Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, put the soccer club up for sale earlier this month and promised to donate money from the proceeds to help victims of the war in Ukraine.