Dhe Russian regime critic Alexej Navalny drew attention to a case in Portugal shortly before the end of last year. In a tweet, Navalny, who is in prison in Russia, denounced the fact that Russian oligarchs in the West are being granted citizenship all too easily. For example in Portugal.
Navalny alleged that Portuguese officials had received suitcases full of money. He spoke of hypocrisy and corruption, but there was no evidence for these allegations. In the Portuguese media, however, the question was raised as to whether everything had gone right with Abramovich’s naturalization.
Of course, assured Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva. Navalny’s accusation is insulting and unfounded, it has no basis. Abramovich had fulfilled all the conditions, his Sephardic descent had been checked and confirmed by the Israelite community in the city of Porto. In the case of Abramovich, this was a basic requirement for finding shelter in the country with a Portuguese passport. It was based on a restitution law that guaranteed the descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries the right to naturalization.
“Corruption, forgery, money laundering”
However, the Portuguese judiciary is now investigating suspected corruption in connection with the naturalization of the 55-year-old billionaire and other Jewish foreigners. As the public prosecutor announced, the chief rabbi of Porto was arrested in connection with the investigation. There were also several searches.
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The public prosecutor said the investigation was about the alleged facts of “influence, active corruption, forgery of documents, money laundering” and the suspicion of tax evasion. Rabbi Daniel Litvak, who was arrested in Porto on Thursday, should therefore be brought before a judge on Saturday.
The Portuguese judiciary had already launched an investigation into the naturalization process against Abramovich last year. The owner of the London football club Chelsea received Portuguese citizenship in April 2021.
In order for the descendants of Sephardic Jews to apply for Portuguese citizenship, they must present certificates of descent issued by the Jewish communities of Lisbon or Porto. In a statement, the Israeli religious community in Porto rejected allegations that its employees had issued fake birth certificates to several naturalization candidates.
The community described itself as a victim of “anonymous denunciations” aimed at “challenging the probity of the naturalization procedures.” You have filed a complaint about the “slanderous denunciations”.
Abramovich can now sell Chelsea after all
Abramovich and other Russian oligarchs have been hit by Western sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The British government announced this week that his assets would be frozen. This applies to “all companies owned or controlled by Roman Abramovich”. Thus, Chelsea FC is also subject to British sanctions. The Londoners are therefore only allowed to play in the English Premier League thanks to a special license.
One of the questions now is whether the Champions League winner will have to fly to the game at OSC Lille on Wednesday with the low-cost airline. Because there are strict requirements that are regulated down to the last detail, including a limit on travel expenses. They can’t be more than £20,000 per game. The team can continue to play football for the time being. However, it is questionable whether the club, which has won numerous titles in the past 20 years, will continue to celebrate sporting successes in the future.
Everything depends on who becomes the new owner. Before the game on Sunday against the nouveau riche sheikh club Newcastle United (3 p.m., in the WELT sports ticker), there was at least a glimmer of hope for the Chelsea fans. The government wants to allow the club to be sold and is in talks with the US bank Raine, which Chelsea had commissioned to handle the deal.
According to The Athletic magazine, the club could change hands within the next four to six weeks. How the government intends to ensure that Abramovich earns nothing from this transaction in accordance with its conditions remained open at first – like so much at Chelsea at the moment.
High performers like German international Antonio Rüdiger, whose contract ends in the summer, will be hard to keep at Stamford Bridge given the uncertainty. A dramatic situation for the Blues: They are not allowed to sign or sell players, nor negotiate new contracts. For coach Thomas Tuchel, his players and the staff of the club world champion, the following applies at the moment: wait, drink tea and hope for the best.
According to a report in the British tabloid Sunday Mirror, Chelsea professionals and other employees have already been informed that private jets and luxury hotels are now taboo. “The club jokes that they fly to the away games with Easyjet,” the paper quoted an insider as saying, “but they only say it half-jokingly.” A luxury problem – in the literal sense.
Abramovich was officially expelled from the club’s management by the Premier League on Friday. Accordingly, the 55-year-old Russian is no longer allowed to work as a director in the club. Which he wasn’t anyway. His longtime assistant Marina Granowskaja, who decides on the commitments of players and coaches – and also brought in Tuchel, has the post. However, given the developments, it is speculated that Granovskaya will not remain Chelsea director for much longer. At London’s Stamford Bridge, they face an uncertain and difficult future.