Following yesterday’s swoop on suspects in “Operation Zeus”, the full implications of this latest intricate alleged State swindle are beginning to emerge.
It appears that as many as 46 people – many of them sergeants and ‘high ranking’ officials – have been fiddling food orders for Air Force base messes for years. Damages to the State could top €10 million.
The idea, explain reports, was to ‘supplement retirement pay’, ensuring a ‘golden pension’ to all those involved. Indeed, national tabloid Correio da Manhã claims the scheme was seen as a “just way” of supplementing what people expected to receive in retirement benefit.
CM adds that the military personnel now in the sights of anti-corruption investigators “had a pact, not to show any outwards signs of wealth that might alert the authorities”.
As explained yesterday, suspicions are that Air Force personnel claimed for as much as three times the food orders that they actually placed.
Excess funds were then shared out between everyone involved, including suppliers (click here).
On the basis that last year’s Air Force food budget was €7.8 million, CM calculates that the money ‘fiddled’ for 2015 will have come to around €2.6 million.
But what’s at stake now is to discover how far this alleged con goes back.
For the time being, two captains, one major and three sergeants are behind bars, pending further developments, while another 40 people – military and civilian – have been made ‘arguidos’ (official suspects).
As a source told Diário de Notícias, the difficulty in proving this fraud has been in finding the money-trail – bearing in mind that back-handers would have been in cash, and not banked by those who received them.
Yesterday’s house and other searches by hundreds of officers of the PJ, military PJ and Public Ministry, revealed “elevated quantities of money” which will have confirmed investigators’ theories.
According to CM at least 15 food supply companies are believed to be involved, and the bases particularly ‘under suspicion’ are those around Lisbon – Monsanto, Figo Maduro, Lumiar, Alcochete, Pero Pinheiro, Montijo, Alfragide – as well as one in Beja and another in Monte Real.
The paper adds that a number of those held “pending interrogation” risk remaining behind bars as the investigation unfolds. They could be deemed to constitute “flight risks”, due to the money they are believed to have at their disposal but which has yet to be recovered.