Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of the British soccer giant Chelsea, has become a Portuguese citizen under a law granting passports to people whose Jewish ancestors were expelled in the 15th century.
Abramovich would have needed to prove that he is descended from Jews whose families fled the Iberian Peninsula following the Inquisition, a campaign of anti-Semitic persecution in Portugal and Spain.
The Reuters news agency said Saturday that a spokesperson for the billionaire had confirmed a report by Portuguese newspaper Publico that the oligarch gained Portuguese citizenship in April.
The report said that Abramovich’s application would have been studied by genealogists, as well as officials who would look for proof of an interest in Sephardi culture.
The report, citing the Jewish Community of Porto’s information portal Mazal, said Abramovich has donated money to a project to honor Portuguese Jews in the German city of Hamburg.
A Portuguese passport allows Abramovich to live and work anywhere in the European Union. It will also potentially make it easier for him to do business in the UK.
In 2018, Abramovich received an Israeli identity card under the Law of Return, which allows Jews to become citizens of Israel. He arrived in his private jet.
He gained Israeli citizenship after he was unable to extend his visa in the UK amid a diplomatic spat between London and Moscow.
Abramovich instantly became the richest Israeli and is now also the richest Portuguese citizen. According to Forbes, he is currently worth $14.3 billion.
As a new citizen, Abramovich is exempt from taxes in Israel on income earned abroad for 10 years, and need not declare the sources of that income for the same period.
When Abramovich’s British visa expired, newly instated more rigorous regulations meant that he would have to explain the source of his wealth to receive a new one.
There is no evidence that Abramovich has done anything wrong, but the United Kingdom has scrutinized Russian businesspeople and diplomats more carefully in recent years.