Portugal comes to defense of Russian billionaire sanctioned by UK

Businessman Roman Abramovich obtained Portuguese citizenship last year

Lisbon announced on Thursday that London’s sanctions on Roman Abramovich, who has Portuguese citizenship, do not apply in Europe, since the UK has left the European Union.

In a statement seen by Reuters, the Justice Ministry of Portugal also said that EU sanctions on Russian oligarchs over Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine do not include the removal of someone’s citizenship.

The announcement comes as the UK froze the assets of seven top Russian businessmen, including Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich. The crackdown on Russian oligarchs is part of Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine. The assets of Chelsea Football Club have also been blocked, meaning Abramovich now won’t be able to sell his London-based team.

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Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich © AP / Martin Meissner
UK freezes assets of Abramovich, other Russian oligarchs

Meanwhile in January, Lisbon opened an inquiry into Abramovich’s successful bid to become a citizen of the country last year. The probe was triggered by doubts about the legality of the process.

The Russian-born businessman was granted Portuguese citizenship in April 2021 based on a law offering naturalization to descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the medieval Inquisition.

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