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Chabad rabbi arrested over expediting E.U. passport to sanctioned Russian-Jewish oligarch Roman Abramovich

Rabbi of the Jewish community of Portugal Litvak arrested after expedited granting citizenship to Russian billionaire


In the photo: Roman Abramovich (left) and Alexander Boroda

June 1, 2023

By attempting to obtain a Portuguese passport, Roman Abramovich provoked searches in a synagogue in Portugal and even the arrest of Rabbi Daniel Litvak.

In Portugal, in 2015, a law was passed on the possibility of obtaining Portuguese citizenship by Sephardic Jews who had previously been expelled from the country. Our old friend Roman Abramovich decided to fit into this story.

Candidates for Portuguese citizenship through Sephardic roots were required to identify themselves as Jewish or be the child of a Jewish parent and provide evidence from their local rabbi that they "had a tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin", along with evidence that may include the etymology of their surnames (?), their family's use of the language Ladino (?) (largely derived from Old Castilian Spanish and Portuguese), or other evidence of direct descent.

Nachman ben Aharon (Jewish name of Roman Abramovich) wrote an email to the Jewish Community of Porto in 2020: “Dear community”, I am a Sephardic Jew, a member of the Sephardic community. Rabbi Boroda interviewed me and confirmed my Sephardic origin. Thank you Roman."

The attachments to the letter included a birth certificate, a PDF file titled "Letter from the Rabbi", copies of Russian and Israeli passports, and a Microsoft Word document titled "Roman Abramovich Family Tree [sic]". It included two parents, Irina and Arkady, who were born in the USSR, and four grandparents, who were born in the "Russian Empire [sic]".

A few weeks later, Abramovich provided the same address with reformatted information and proof of payment. He also wrote: "I plan to donate to you [sic] on a permanent basis for a long time"

The “letter from the rabbi,” which was required to confirm Abramovich’s Sephardic Jewry, was written by the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Alexander Boroda. In 2018, Boroda went on record as saying that Abramovich had donated half a billion dollars to the Jewish Federation over two decades.

[Abramovich's] personal interview, conducted by Boroda, records that Roman Arkadyevich "preserves Sephardic rituals, lifestyle, traditions and customs in food." Asked what eating habits distinguish a Sephardic family in Russia, Boroda replied, "I don't know for sure."
Boroda did not mention that he himself sought to obtain a certificate as a Portuguese Sephardic Jew a few months after Roman Abramovich.

Since obtaining Abramovich's Portuguese passport proved to be a super urgent matter, a member of the Porto Jewish community wrote to the Portuguese government with the following information: "Given the sharp increase in anti-Semitism in Europe and the belief that the following information will cause headlines and protests against history on European territory, we ask Your Excellency to take all measures to ensure that this information never becomes public." Instead of the usual 29 months of waiting, Abramovich received a Portuguese passport in 2 months.

Daniel LitvakDaniel Litvak

It is not known what exactly caused the searches in the Jewish communities and synagogues in Portugal in March 2022: whether the accelerated procedure for obtaining citizenship or fake certificates of belonging to the Sephardic Jewish community, but it is known that the name of Abramovich appeared in the documents for the search in the synagogue, submitted by the Portuguese police.

Beard, in an interview with Vanitifair , said that he provided a Sephardic certificate for 20-30 Jews, no more. If there are people who know Roman Arkadyevich personally, then ask him in Old Castilian and write in the comments what he answered you.

Criminal police in Porto have detained a rabbi who helped Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich obtain Portuguese citizenship. The businessman received an EU passport, proving that his ancestors were expelled from Portugal at the end of the 15th century. Rabbi Daniel Litvak was detained on Thursday as part of an investigation into Abramovich's citizenship, the Publico newspaper reported . In the local community, the rabbi was responsible for certifying the descendants of the Sephardim, the Jewish community of the Iberian Peninsula, who were persecuted in Portugal and Spain.
On Friday, the police arrived at the building of the Jewish community in Porto to question other members of its leadership. In 2015, the authorities granted her the right to certify the descendants of the Portuguese expelled in the 15th century. Authorities suspect that Abramovich may have obtained citizenship illegally. A statement from the community of Porto dismissed the allegations and said it was the victim of a "smear campaign," according to Reuters .

Abramovich, whose fortune was estimated by Forbes magazine at $ 14 billionin December , became the richest citizen of Portugal at the time of obtaining citizenship. However, the issuance of the passport caused at least two checks by the authorities. Abramovich's acquaintances anonymously told the Russian media that he had long been interested in the history of his family and indeed traced its roots in Portugal, despite the fact that his surname is typical for Ashkenazi Jews from Central Europe.


The Jewish community of Porto, Portugal's second most populous city, has announced that it is "no longer interested in cooperating with the state to certify Sephardic Jews," news agency Lusa reported. [...] The decision of the Jews of Porto to no longer process applications for citizenship leaves only the Jewish community of Lisbon the right to naturalize in Portugal the descendants of Sephardic Jews. At the moment, it is not clear how many applications are pending in the Jewish community of Porto, which has processed thousands of requests from Sephardi descendants since 2015.
Roman Abramovich received Portuguese citizenship in April 2021 through a naturalization law for the descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the medieval Inquisition. In January 2022, the Portuguese Attorney General's Office and the Lisbon Investigation Department confirmed that they were investigating the circumstances surrounding his acquisition of citizenship. The Institute of Registries and Notaries (IRN) also joined the investigation.

Rabbi Daniel Litvak spoke to the media after that, saying that he had no doubt that the investigation “will definitely establish that the businessman received Portuguese citizenship in strict accordance with the letter of the law, and that all the descendants of Sephardi Jews paid 250 euros in two installments - the state duty for registration of nationality and the fee charged by the certifying community. Litvak also pointed out that the full documentation of the certification process for granting Portuguese citizenship to Roman Abramovich based on certificates from the highest international Jewish institutions "has been at the disposal of the Central Registry Office of Lisbon for a long time" and has been carefully studied.
Chabad Rabbi Boroda:
“The rabbis of 80% of the synagogues (in Russia) are from CHABAD.”
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